Now I have your attention, I should clarify, it’s not what you think…

In the UK when I was a kid growing up in the 70’s in Lancashire we had rag and bone men who used to walk round the streets with their shire horses in tow, shouting, “Any old rag and bones?” It was usually a source of excitement to us kids to see the sight of the big shire horse and the cart with all the junk  thrown on top. Mothers used to rush inside and get lots of old rags, other bits and bobs and throw them onto the cart. How these guys made money selling on the stuff that folk threw away I do not know, but they did. Rag and bone men disappeared in the UK in the 80’s, and we all started using the local council rubbish dumps to empty our houses of the things we didn’t need. More recently, we have Freecyle the aim of which is to promote waste reduction and help save landscape from being taken over by landfills.







Needless to say we don’t have rag and bone men in Auckland, but we do have inorganic collections. They occur for a short period once a year and give people the opportunity to put out approved material for collection by the council, which is then taken straight to landfill. Before we left the UK we gave a lot of things away – to friends, family and charity shops. We simply could not justify shipping a full container of material we had hoarded over the years if we probably wouldn’t use it. Instead, we shipped a half container of essentials, so we were  lacking a few things, which although not essential, we could have done with or may liked to have. Also, a lot of items are prohibitively expensive over here, and given the cost of moving down under, it made sense to keep an eye out for some of these non-essentials when people starting putting items outside for the inorganic collection.

At first, I non-chalantly drove by, or walked by posh houses pretending I was just walking by en route somewhere else. In actual fact I was discretely looking at the piles of items dumped outside the houses. One lady had a picnic table outside her house, and I politely asked if I could take it, she said yes of course, please do – and then she ran inside and got me four chairs to accompany it. How lovely was that! (She also liked my hair…) After that, and when I discovered it was socially acceptable thing to do – I wasn’t the only one, lots of people were doing it – I became a little more brazen in my cruising by of people’s rubbish piles.

So, here is was I collected:

1. A surfboard (I kid you not), it’s a learner board – I have never surfed in my life, why not?  When in Rome… (there were also lots of boogy boards as well, but we have two already)

2. A milk pan

3. Terracota plant pots

4. A succulent plant

5. The above-mentioned picnic table and chairs

6. An outside wooden chair

7. A wicker basket

8. A fish barbecue

9. A fishing rod

10. A dog bed

11. A shoe rack

12. A chilly bin for camping

13. A laptop bag

I’m sure we got more than that, but I’m sure this list gives you an idea of the sort of items people were giving away.

According to out landord, there was an outcry a few years ago in the North Shore where we live, because South Pacific Islanders from poorer parts of the community were driving round picking through the rubbish and collecting items they needed (and still do). Some people took distate to this. Given everything was going to landfill, that attitude doesn’t make any sense to me. Waste not, want not, we were taught as kids – surely recycling through the inorganic collections is a good thing?

To clarify, family – it’s OK… we’re not povvy, we’re just trying to be wise stewards of the things we have been given. Perhaps a compliment to our upbringing (thank you).

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