I was sadly told by a repair man examining my dryer that it would be better for me to throw it away since parts & labor would cost more than buying a new one.
Just the oft used phrase, “Throw it away,” flaunts the naive delusion or willful blindness in our culture about where trash “goes,” and it also confirms the greed of manufacturers.
There is no AWAY, people!
Even in Space: NASA estimates that there’re 500,000+ pieces of man-made trash stubbornly orbiting the earth at speeds of around 17,500 miles per hour.
Here on earth, Ed Hume (Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash) reveals the relationship people in the States have with their garbage:
- 102 tons per person in their lifetime, 7.1 pounds per person per day! (the Japanese generate 2.5 pounds). Twice as much trash as in 1960.
- The biggest category of U.S. garbage, 30+%, is insta-trash: packaging/containers!
- Decomposing creates more greenhouse gases than burning it would release.
- Scrap metal and paper is our top export abroad, most of it to China.
- The average American community spends more on waste management than fire protection, libraries, parks & rec and textbooks!
This says a lot about this country’s facile thinking, flimsy dot-to-dot engagement in sustainable living and manifest selfishness.
The European model: manufacturers pay for packaging and explore reyclability vs. disposibility but in the U.S., we—the consumers and taxpayers—pay instead. We bury 69%! of our waste in landfills where Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Sweden have cut landfilling below 4% all the while generating energy, heat and new products out of the same materials (estimated to be worth $20 billion) that we throw “away” creating catastrophes like the Pacific Garbage Patch which is a chowder of plankton-sized plastic floating in the sea. Many fish eat these particles mistaking them for food! This is just one of five of these gyres/vortexs drifting in our oceans! All combined, they encompass 40% of the global ocean surface! which is more territory than all the dry land combined!!!
I can’t put enough exclamations points in this post and—as a writer—I’m seriously opposed to them.
Here’s one tragically beautiful thing that’s come from all this waste: the moving, revealing, multi-award winning documentary, Wasteland, (directed by Lucy Walker). This film chronicles contemporary artist, Vik Muniz, as he works with the trash pickers of Jardim Gramacho—the world’s largest landfill—on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro making works of art from garbage to their art opening in New York. “An uplifting feature documentary highlighting the transformative power of art and the beauty of the human spirit.” I’ll say!
I can’t see much hope on the horizon for some sort of epiphany of concern and/or ethics from the big-headed U.S. who arrogantly spawns the most “litter” worldwide, so much so that we ship it around the world where less entitled humans pick through our throwaways.
Why is it that other countries can use critical thinking skills to visualize both sides of production to reduce generating excess rubbish, yet we won’t?