As I did so, I noticed a guy with a pickup truck about 20 feet away who was meticulously folding up the now empty paper bags that he had obviously used to bring leaves to the dump.
We gave the silent nods of acknowledgement that people often do at the dump... and then curiosity got the better of me and I asked "so do you re-use your bags?"
"Oh, sure! I usually get a good three years out of them," he said.
I nodded... and we both continued our separate work. But what blew my mind at that moment was simply this:
I had never considered re-using the paper leaf bags!
They were just the things you put leaves in and then threw out at the dump. Nothing more than that.
My package of 5 bags cost me $3.29 at my local hardware store. I bought two packages and so my investment thus far was a bit under $7. ($6.58 if we're being precise.) I was figuring I would probably need another set of bags to finish out the season and so I'd buy another set soon.
In my mind just "the cost of doing business" and living in New England. Since the drop-off of leaves is free at our city dump, that $10 is my cost for the season, plus of course the bit of gas to drive out to the dump.
Not a big deal in the flow of our regular household budget.
$10 can buy other things. $10 could pay for the gas I need to drive back and forth. $10 could be donated to someone who might need it more.
It was a reminder to me that we live in such a consumeristic society where we just think about everything as being disposable. I was thinking about things as being disposable, particularly because these are just paper bags that will automatically degrade along with all of the leaves in them.
But why not re-use them?
By the time I unloaded my nine bags the guy had driven away and I was the only one at the pile. A couple of my bags were ripped from sticks and needed to be thrown in the pile... but I did save seven of them. Just emptied out the leaves and then folded them somewhat back together.
Now I don't have to buy that third set of bags - and if I'm careful I can probably not rip these bags and hold on to them for next year.
The only way out of being a "disposable" society is for us to think about ways that we can indeed reduce, re-use and recycle... and in this case I chose to re-use!
What about you? Do you re-use leaf bags? (If you are in the part of the world that needs them.) Or have you never bothered with leaf bags anyway and just used tarps and such?
You can hear an audio version of this post on SoundCloud: