What’s the first thing you do when you move into a new place?

That’s right. Tear through your boxes, eager to find every plate, every book, a new home in your new home. Tissue paper flies. Bubble wrap pops. Boxes flatten. Until, finally, you’re left with a huge pile of recyclables on your living room floor — and if you’re anything like me, the boxes are packed tighter than nesting dolls to minimize the number of trips it would take to haul everything to your garbage room or dumpster.

Or, in my case, pack everything into my car to be driven to the Recycle Here center on Holden Ave in New Center.

Recycle Here is a huge warehouse that enables us city folk to recycle EVERYTHING: newspaper, glossy paper, flat paper, thick paper (cardboard), think paper (regular paper), mixed paper, books, glass, aluminum, plastics — 1, 2, skip a few, 4, 5, 6, and 7 — and so on. All you do is

  1. show up with your recyclables on-hand,
  2. great the nice recycle people,
  3. walk around the warehouse to sort your recyclables into the appropriate bins,
  4. wave goodbye,
  5. and head home/to the bar/on a run/to say hi to grandma, etc.

While the experience is super easy to follow and incredibly uplifting, it’s unfortunately not accessible to everyone in the city.

I thought it was just my building that didn’t offer recycling services in-house. But conversations with other garbage-aware Detroiters revealed that many of the buildings downtown don’t offer residents an easy way to recycle. And in a world where the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (“GPGP”) is a thing, we NEED better ways to recycle common items, like plastic bottles.

But I’ve come to find that recycling in Detroit is more than plastic bottles and Coke cans. The thrifting game is strong, through Goodwills and Salvation Armies, estate sales and popups (i.e.: Detroit Riot). I bought all of my bedroom furniture from the resale part of D&D storage, over on Mack Avenue, as well as coats and sweaters from the many thrift stores around the city.

I know there’s a stigma around using used stuff. But I look at it this way: my dresser, my mirror, have a story and a purpose. I look at the etches in the white paint and wonder who carved them there. The glitter stuck to the top of my dresser I imagine came from a girl getting ready for the glamour of a New Year’s Eve party. For the previous owner, these items maybe helped make their guests feel at home. For me, they give my clothes and jewelry a home for my life in Detroit. And maybe their future owner will be a little girl, who will display her dolls on it with pride.

With so many items already carved out of Earth’s materials, why only create new ones when we can continue to use what already exists?

In this new year, I challenge you to find one new way to recycle — whether it’s lugging your cardboard out to Recycle Here or it’s finding the little table for your breezeway by thrifting. I challenge you to take a step towards minimalism.