Today recycling is being encouraged for the good of the environment. But many years ago in San Pedro there was a lot of recycling, except that it was not done for the environment but because of need. Salaries and wages were small and in many instances articles were non-existent, thus the need to make do with what was available. Hold on; here we go!
Tin cans were opened very neatly and used as tea cups, coffee mugs or for lack of a better word, drinking vessels. Expensive biscuits came in a beautifully decorated round or rectangular metal cans. These metal cans made excellent and beautiful jewelry boxes. They were also used as organizer boxes to store thread, yarn and knitting materials.
Traditionally food stuff like jam or jelly, peanut butter, mayonnaise and olives came in round glass containers with a screw type lid. These round glass containers were recycled into very handy storage containers to store flour, sugar, salt, recado, black pepper, coconut oil, etc.
Tin cans were also recycled into toys. I am talking of toys like caperucho, telephones, noise wheels (tin cans half filled with marbles or small stones and dragged with a string), or stilts that acted like high heels.
Old clothing like dresses were recycled into several usable items. They made absolutely fine towels for family members. Cut into small squares, they made excellent toilet paper more aptly called toilet cloth or tissue.
Let's talk about metal drums. Four of them made a fine shallow fresh water well. One drum made a good reservoir for storing rain water. One quarter of a drum cut at the bottom was used as an oven to bake bread over a fire hearth. Half a drum, the bottom half, was aptly used as a huge cooking pot to fry pork fat and skin to make crispy chicharron (pork rind).
Ashes which is normally discarded in most parts of the world was recycled years ago in San Pedro. A bucket of ashes added to five buckets of well water converted hard water into soft water that lathered like a shampoo. It was used to wash linen and soft clothing or to give one's hair a fine ‘shampooing’ .
Traditionally only a few women wore shoes; men did not. But there was a need to protect the feet when working in the bush or areas with plenty of burrs. To do this men found old rubber tires, cut them to the shape of their feet, attached some strings to it and came up with a pair of rustic sandals called "apargatas".
There are many more examples of recycling due to need, but let me end with this. All lumber which drifted to or beaches was collected by the villagers and put to good use. This lumber was used o build outdoor toilets or latrines as well as fences. Even some patio kitchens with their fire hearts were constructed with drift lumber found on our beaches.
Such was recycling many years ago in San Pedro and Ambergris Caye.
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