It Never Really Goes Away: Trash Talk (part 2)

THIS IS THE SECOND PART OF A FOUR PART SERIES, FOR THE INTRODUCTION CLICK HERE

who can we begin to blame?

First, we have to think about where the day to day items we handle come from and what they are made of. Yes, theres plastic, but then there’s Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET) and Polypropylene (PP) and HDPE and LDPE plastics, the list is honestly overwhelming. When it comes down to it, the most common material in the average household is plastic. It’s in the brush you use to comb your hair, the container used to hold your juices, down to the sticker on your apples; Plastic is really hard to stay away from. Consumers can tackle the growing plastic problem in several ways but the only way we will start see a change will be once manufacturers learn that using sustainable materials for their products is the way of the future for the future. When items are not reused or recycled this drives the manufacturer to create more products using virgin materials ultimately depleting the world of its natural resources adding to our growing climate crisis.

       People Talking Trash

Youth today are becoming more empowered to take control of their future. One of the most influential teens of today is Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old swedish student climate activist, who’s cries for action have been heard ‘round the world. She has made exceptional strides in the act of making climate change a household conversation. In her November 2018 TED Talk in Sweden she spoke on the inaction we have been so used to doing and how baffled she was that although there was buzz about the planet being in an existential crisis we were still talking about other subjects. News and media outlets alike were not giving the topic of global warming the same time of day. Without the rest of world being told the effects that are happening because of our doings, then the world will not see a change nor begin to do anything about it. At the end of her TED talk, she gave the audience a key piece of information to think about when it came to keeping hope for the future; Thunberg said “Yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.” We have had the tools and knowledge for fixing the issue but it is fundamentally left in the hands of the government and what they allow to happen.

Compostable items that end up in the landfill are by far the most costly for our planet. Compost is primarily made of food scraps and certain food grade paper products that are intended to be added to soil after it has been broken down to its most organic matter. What consumers do not realize is that when we compost correctly and it gets sent to a location where it is combined with soil that eventually gets sold to farmers all over. We are unknowingly part of the farming process of what goes directly back into our bodies and this shows us that we do not realize the power we have over every aspect that touches our lives and others.

photo from ecomena.org

Compostable soil is richer in nutrients which means it will hold on to water longer reducing the need to collect and use more water, ultimately saving that natural resource and adding to the quality of life for everybody. But what does not add to the quality of life is the underlying fact that we waste water at an astronomical level to grow more food than we need while Flint, Michigan is still failing to provide clean drinking water to its residents. As food begins to rot underneath tons of other debris, it begins to let out greenhouse gases such as Methane and Nitrous Oxide into the air that we breathe that could potentially lead to other health problems. These health issues include, but are not limited to: Cancer, Respiratory issues and Bacterial Diseases.  The Guardian calls Mott Haven in the South Bronx of New York, “Asthma Alley”, where hundreds of garbage trucks drive daily letting out Carbon Emissions on top of the already contaminated air. Here the residents “need asthma hospitalizations at five times the national average and at rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods.” This isn’t the residents fault, they’re not the ones asking for dozens of trucks to constantly be driving in their neighborhoods, this is a government problem.

                Non-Believers and Naysayers

Businesses are not being held accountable for the products that are ending up in the waste stream. They are still being allowed to create these items and sell them in locations where they may not offer a recycling option for that item. For example, according to recycle today, the state of Pennsylvania has now stopped collecting glass and other items, however, this does not stop the state from banning glass and those other materials. This is causing the entire state to result to discarding these items into the landfill, where they will stay forever. Brittany Prischak, the county’s sustainability coordinator says, “It has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of environmental consciousness at the recycling facilities.” What she means by this is that, it’s not the peoples fault for not wanting to recycle, it’s clearly a government issue. The article reveals that this is due to China’s ban of importing our nation’s trash into their country.

The book Garbology: Our Love Affair With Trash by Edward Humes tells that China was the main importer of our garbage and how it had economical benefits to their country. Eventually, China had no more room for their trash and ours, so they stopped taking it causing us to hoard everything in our landfills.

It is not surprising to read that more than 50% of Americans do not care to recycle. Considering that every state carries out laws differently, it would be nearly impossible to get all 50 states on board with the same recycling program. The three misconceptions among non-believers and naysayers according to the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS), a center within Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE) are: recycling it is too much work, they don’t think it makes a difference, and it’s just too confusing. The common denominator among all three of these reasons is a lack of education about the process of recycling. These ideologies among naysayers are simply illogical when presented with the facts. Recycling, though tedious, does not have to be so difficult a task. By educating the population of the way in which things go, how they are broken down and then made new, and the benefits of recycling, one will easily begin to see the changes it can have and actively participate without hesitation.

FOR THE THIRD PART OF THIS SERIES CLICK HERE

WORKS CITED

Bhalala, Heeral. “Will the U.S. Ever Learn to Recycle?” Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, 4 Nov. 2013, cligs.vt.edu/recycle/.

Bloch, Michael. “Recycling Plastics – What the Numbers Mean Cheat Sheet.” Green Living Tips, 27 Oct. 2018, http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/recycling-by-the-numbers.html.

Humes, Edward. Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. Avery, 2013.

Kilani, Hazar. “’Asthma Alley’: Why Minorities Bear Burden of Pollution Inequity Caused by White People.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Apr. 2019, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/04/new-york-south-bronx-minorities-pollution-inequity.

Maile, Kelly. “Municipal Recycling Programs No Longer Accepting Glass, Plastics.” Recycling Today, Recycling Today, 24 Sept. 2018, http://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/recycling-programs-phase-out-glass-2018/

Thunberg, Greta. “The Disarming Case to Act Right Now on Climate Change.” TED, http://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate.



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