I really like my garbage can, don’t you? The person who invented the garbage can should get a Nobel prize. It’s always there when I need it, stashed comfortably beneath my sink. If I have some tiny bit of something I don’t know what to do with, I can always rely on my garbage can to accept it without hesitation, without question. And I frequently have things I need to discard: bits of paper too small to go into the recycler bin, bones that won’t go down the disposal, lids of cans the recycler people don’t want, plastic microwave dinner trays, the empty rind of half a grapefruit, empty frozen orange juice cans–well, you get the idea, into the trash it goes. Then, when my wonderful trash can gets full, all I have to do is tie up the drawstrings of the bag and toss it into the dumpster. Just like everyone else, I toss it aside as though I didn’t have a care in the world. It’s so simple and easy, I don’t give it another thought.
No problem, right? Well, maybe not. We humans are the trashiest species on the planet. We throw away so much crap it takes hundreds of trucks in every city several days a week just to collect it. Then it goes to a landfill where it settles into the landscape like a methane-exhaling dragon settling down to take a nap. We have so much trash that it’s collecting in the Pacific Ocean not far from Midway Island in the oceanic equivalent of a gigantic landfill that contains items from all over the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if, say, a plastic cup, or old prescription bottle, or KFC plastic take-out tray I threw away years ago isn’t trapped within that mess. I’ve heard it’s so big, it’s almost impossible to clean up. Eventually that dragon, landfill or oceanic, will wake up , sooner rather than later, and we’re going to pay the price of our throw-it-away lifestyle.
What’s worse is that we throw away our trash in plastic bags! Plastic bags that are impervious to the elements and don’t degrade, and hold our trash in a comfortable cocoon while they pile up in the landfill. Ridiculous.
I haven’t researched the problem in any detail, and that’s not the point of this essay. I could go out and collect figures and facts about how much we discard every [day, week, month, year] but looking at a lot of numbers and data points on a graph isn’t going to make the problem go away. I’m not a specialist in waste management, but neither I nor you nor most of the people who read my blog have to be to understand there’s a problem, and it can’t continue. I don’t have any answers (comment if you do) other than to recite the usual mantra, recycle. As much as you can. Always.