Let’s Play: Overflowing Recycling Bins is an Opportunity for Creativity

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

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Try saving some items with no set goal then leave a bin of this and that out on a rainy April afternoon. All sorts of things have potential for free play and new ideas. See what happens.

“Mom, the recycling bin is overflowing. Why do you keep all those cardboard rolls?”

I just do. I also save all the colorful, plastic, rectangle do-dads that tie off bread bags and the white pull tabs from inside the 1/2 gallon milk carton caps. Those bits and pieces might be the perfect addition to a project one day. The plastic, mesh bags from fruits and veggies could be a great background or texture during a kid collage afternoon.

She should not be surprised at the saving at this point but she is, if it gets in her way—when the cardboard rolls tumble out the of the recycling. It is not that extreme yet. These little items all have bins they get tossed in. I make quality control decisions when saving. There is criteria for potential usability. I don’t save the extra sheets of twist ties from boxes of garbage bags. I have no use for those. Yogurt cups and tubs instantly go out on recycling pick up day. There are things we would never reuse, things we hope to reuse and things we actually reuse.

But, the kiddo is correct, the amount of empty TP rolls has grown too large. So here is the response she gets:

“Make something with them.”

After 30 minutes of free time with those rolls, I was envisioning TP roll sculpture, maybe painted or turned into an animal.  Maybe she would produce a play scene with TP roll fencing or trees. Instead, a painting appeared. She used the ends of the tubes as a stamp with ink pads and water color paints. After it dried, the rolls were snipped short and added as relief sculpture on top of the painting. She always surprises.

Try saving some items with no set goal then leave a bin of this and that out on a rainy April afternoon. All sorts of things have potential for free play and new ideas. See what happens.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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