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Two people are living in a forest near a recently evacuated city, and they are getting their food and other supplies from there. They turn any natural materials into compost, but what do they do with plastic products, such as a bag of chips, while still being environmentally conscious?

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    $\begingroup$ People involved in an evacuation generally have more pressing problems than "where's the bin?" What's so special about these two, that they're living near such a serious threat that it has caused hundreds of thousands or millions of people to be displaced, but they're more concerned about recycling? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Jun 22 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ "They will recycle any paper": how do they do that? Do they have a fully functional paper reprocessing installation at hand? Recycling paper is not at all a simple technology. In that case, why not give them a plastic reprocessing facility as well? And I don't get what "environmentally conscious" means in practice for two people who are "living in a forest near a recently evacuated city". In a desperate fight for survival, what is the value of caring for the well-being of the flat-backed spider tortoise? Anyway, the answer is easy: use it if it is usable, otherwise leave it where it is. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 22 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime, I suspect this is an example of the latest generation, which as never lived without recycling, brainwashed into thinking of recycling etc. as essential parts of society and life in general rather than as token gestures to alleviate our consciences as we destroy the world. $\endgroup$ – Ray Butterworth Jun 22 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Unprepared folks are unlikely to live more than a few years in the forest anyway. Vitamin deficiencies, tooth decay, badly-healed wounds, and parasites are not fun. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 22 at 17:43
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What kind of plastic? In what form? Unless the plastic is easily degradable, they have some very good properties, which is way better than anything else they could make by themselves.

Depending on the situation, it is not about recycling but treasuring every piece of plastic as treasure. No more is coming for a long while.

Storage. They are lightweight and easily cleanable, non reactive (to my knowledge). Perfect for storing, gathering clean water, food, other material.

Depending on differing properties repurpose them as building material, tools. If have any surplus collect and store them, they will come in handy sooner or later.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yup. In a survival situation, almost everything is saved and re-used or re-purposed until it can no longer be made use of in any way shape or form or becomes too limiting to transport in relation to any benefit it provides $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Jun 23 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ agreed containers are valuable as containers, damage bags and bottles can be used for waterproofing, hard plastic can be shaped into tools, Use is defined by shape and composition. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 23 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted. I grew up in Soviet Russia, where consumer goods and especially plastics were rare, and I do remember my parents saving every plastic bag and food container we could get our hands on. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Jun 24 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @BaldBear Not from Soviet Russia, but not from First World either, so yeah, same here. $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jun 24 at 17:10
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Our rubbish contains everything you need

Only a small proportion of a cities waste is recycled, or reused. The vast majority is placed in landfill.

You would have an enormous wealth of resources in landfill. You can easily use it to:

  • Furnish your new settlement for the 2 people
  • Create structures and shelters
  • Provide quite comfortable amenities
  • Provide soil and fertiliser to grow food

You just need to wash what you use as often waste is pooled together, so bacteria from household waste is often mixed together (ie. don't get sick).

But I would recommend visiting your local landfill facility, you would be surprised at what is thrown away (perfectly useable TV's, couches, building materials, filters etc. - not what you would expect would be thrown away). It can be quite astonishing what modern-day city-dwellers consider 'waste'.

As for the plastics - you can opt simply not to use them, if you are concerned with their use. Or you could use them, and return them to where you found them when finished.

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    $\begingroup$ Good to know. Didn't thought about it, but after the abandoned stores are looted or too dangerous, the local waste deposit sounds like a good alternative now. Though it depends on location. First world city dwellers waste more than other more financially struggling population. $\endgroup$ – Lupus Jun 22 at 14:23

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