If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Talking Trash

In the morning you stumble out of bed, grab a banana off the table, spill a little cereal in the bowl, slice the banana into the cereal and then pour a little milk over the top. The banana peel gets dumped into the trash can, the empty cereal box and inside bag goes there too. As luck would have it the milk carton is also empty so you dump that in the trash as well. Time for the morning paper as you grab your bowl, wander to the table and, eyes not quite open, sit down.

Leaning back slightly you read the morning headline--"Sending trash across the state may be pricey". Oooo...sounds expensive. You read on scanning through the text. Ten million dollars EVERY YEAR--570,000 tons of garbage--burial in the desert, 137 miles away--70 diesel belching trucks every day--trucks traveling 274 miles round trip just to haul garbage. Could this really be?

Garbage, it seems, is better off in a dry climate. I assume it decays better. But 570,000 tons? That is 1,140,000,000 pounds of garbage yearly. Oh wait, let me make that easier. That is ONE BILLION, ONE-HUNDRED-FORTY MILLION pounds of garbage yearly or three-million-one hundred twenty-three thousand-two-hundred and eighty-seven pounds of garbage EVERY DAY. Holy Toledo, that's a lot of weight!

It all starts with us...err I mean me. We, I mean I, put the stuff in the can and dump it without a single thought. Well, actually I do give it a though now after reading "Garbage Land; On the Secret Trail of Trash" but most don't. Just drop it in the can...not my problem now. Every item we, I mean I, drop in the trash can uses petroleum. Not just in the manufacture but also in the disposal. Imagine if this option were not available and I had to start burying all the stuff I throw away in my backyard. For sure I might just get a little embarrassed. Not to mention the complaints from the neighbors. Not a good option.

We, as a society, have learned to avoid embarrassment by paying someone to take our trash away. It's a lucrative business for the trash company. we pay them millions of dollars every year to take our trash out and hide it in the desert. This way we don't even have to think about it. It is just nice little plastic bundles given up for burial without last rites or eulogy and then simply forgotten.

We ourselves can go from dust to dust but much of our garbage cannot. It goes from plastic to plastic and stays that way for centuries, possibly forever. Even paper, when layered and not exposed to the air, lasts for hundreds,or possibly thousands, of years. If this world lasts long enough we will have left enough trash behind to keep an archaeology team busy and snickering at our piggish folly for a very long time. Ummm..the current system is not sustainable so eventually we will have to figure out a different way. But don't worry that will probably be after we have all have been disposed of ourselves...hopefully with a little more reverence than the trash we left behind.

So what should we do with our trash? Well, the first thing to do is think about trash before it becomes trash. Don't buy as much. Refuse to buy things in containers that cannot be reused or recycled. AVOID PLASTIC. Buy bulk as much as possible. If your store does not have a bulk aisle then switch stores and tell the manager why you left. If there are no bulk stores in your neighborhood then start a co-op. Use reusable bags and containers rather than plastic bags as often as you can. Recycle everything you can...everything! About 80% of what we currently use in our household is recyclable and we sort and haul it away to the proper bins. Be conscious of reducing, reusing and recycling. Start a compost or worm bin. Quit buying so much stuff. I know, I know...its hard to do in our consumerist society.

I won't go into the details about my own trash here because I have covered that in previous blogs but I know I still have a long way to go. My goal is to be as close to zero garbage as possible. I have failed that goal in many regards simply because I haven't been conscious. If I keep my mind on garbage and put pressure on the manufacturers to think this way too I can personally help to make garbage less of an issue, financially and otherwise. I must say the numbers I quoted above came from my hometown paper and shocked me a bit. It actually left me feeling a little soiled because I know I am part of the problem. I even used to own a bunch of stock in Waste Management and rooted for all those tossing their trash because it made the company more profitable. Now I am working toward being a part of the solution by Reducing what I buy, Reusing what I can, and Recycling what I can't. It's a simple statement but agreeably it is very difficult to fully implement. But it makes you feel good when you deposit very little trash in the can or dumpster. Try it...you'll like it.

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