By Sr. Noeleen Mooney, MMM, Friday 3rd September 2021 

Walking through any town in Ireland I am struck by the overflowing litter bins, the sticky chewing gum on the cement, not to mention the various hues of plastic bags which still festoon the hedges and ditches in the surrounding countryside.

I have a longing for the semi-desert in Tanzania where I lived for many years. The throwaway age hasn’t reached there yet. Nothing is disposable, it is almost always reusable. An empty bottle, or plastic container (especially if it has a lid) is a priceless treasure. It is used for carrying water, milk, kerosene or cooking oil.
I marvel at small children who balance such containers on their heads, leaving their hands free for other purposes – like holding long sticks of sugar cane, which they chew with relish.

Small boys spend the years before going to school as shepherds. They take their flocks of cows, sheep and goats from place to place in search of pasture. They can often be seen constructing the most marvelous toys from bottle tops, pieces of tin cans, nails, sticks and the occasional piece of car tyre. I have even seen model airplanes, as there is an airstrip nearby, used by the flying doctor service. The boys certainly have great powers of observation and great manual dexterity for creating toys out of things that you or I would certainly throw away.

It affects my way of looking at things here in Ireland. It is always a struggle to throw away something that I know would have other possible uses. But then I cannot send such things to Tanzania. Travel baggage restrictions take care of that. I do have this secret desire to line the bottom of a suitcase with as many plastic bags as possible, to share and help to carry at least some of the loads of my friends.

OBS: This was an audio recording for RTE Radio 1: A Living Word.

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