Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Rubbish, Trash, Refuse, Garbage and Junk!
The "Wikipedia" definition of "Waste". Sums it up pretty nicely!
Waste drives me crazy. You see it everywhere, on the street on my walk home, in the park I run around on the weekend, on campus even in the corridors, on the beach I go swimming at, and even at the very bottom of the ocean (above, a paint can, 3000m down in the North Atlantic). Waste, created and discarded by humans is, quite literally, everywhere. It's a bit of a puzzle to me too, why do we create all these things to throw them away? Why is that 2cm pen drive packaged in a 20cm plastic square? Why are those apples packaged in a plastic box? Why does cereal come in a bag, and a box? All questions that confound me on a regular basis.
If cereal just came in a bag, and not a box, it would reduce packaging costs by a third. You can fit more bags on a pallet than you can boxes, so transport costs are cut. This medium you would have thought would be better for our wallets as well as the Earth, and if it's all thought about logically, most environmentally conscious decisions should, in theory, cost us all less. We've gone a little packaging crazy over the 100 years, with newer and better technology, meant to make those apples look that little bit more tasty. For me it's a real turn off, I can't physically bring myself to buy apples in plastic packaging, even if they are half the price, I just can't do it.
Each person on this planet puts out an average of 572.4kgs of waste per year. In the US the average is a staggering 760kgs per year, in the UK it is 560kgs per year. And population is rising rapidly, leaving us questioning where is all this waste going to go? Landfill? We're running out of room. Incineration? Well, there are good programs out there, but the majority are not. It is certainly something that should be seriously considered. Ocean? Well, there's plenty of room in the deep-sea. Don't laugh, it is actually happening.
So today, is a good day, to think about waste. Here are the three things that I try and live by -
Prevent It: Stay away from "one-time wonders" and buy only what I need, and buy good quality that will last many years to come; stay away from excessive packaging where possible; never use plastic shopping bags (I try so hard to always bring my own, but always seem to end up with the odd plastic bag maybe once a month or so).
Re-use It: Buy only things that can be reused (resuseable bags, boxes, lunch wrappers); though I don't do this significantly, there are things I will seek out used rather than new, as long as good quality and not just accumulation.
Recycle It: Everything physically possible, goes into my recycle bin. And some things that aren't on the Hawaii list (which is a lot). There's a small campaign here to load the recycle centers with other plastics they don't currently accept, so that they can a) be used in the incinerators to help the recycle process rather than ending up in a landfill in California, and b) get records on other plastics so that they can get the recycling equipment.
So day 3 of Earth Week, and today it's Waste, one of my biggest pet peeves!