Trash Day: It May Be Depressing to Read, But Thank Goodness This Garbage Is Getting Covered

Today is my neighborhood’s trash day. In fact, as I write this there’s a Philly trash truck collecting black bags outside the Good Karma Cafe and some of the crew have stopped in for coffee before getting back into the truck.

I forgot to take out my trash today though. With a small waste-basket under the kitchen sink – I only have a little bit each week. I like to kid myself that I am less wasteful than others. And sometimes I only take out my trash every other week.

I’ll never forget two years ago when all of this trash awareness started. I was sitting in a Chicago airport with a colleague, waiting to board a plane. I was drinking a Starbuck’s tea and he began to tell me about an article he wanted to write that no one would publish. It was about an island of plastic twice the size of Texas found swirling in the North Pacific.

Suddenly, my tea didn’t taste so good through a plastic lid. Looking around I saw the hundreds of other passengers carrying plastic-wrapped goods through the airport. As our plan began boarding, I searched in vain for a recycling can, and had to just throw the plastic away.

When I got home I went online and confirmed that it was true- there were millions of tons of plastics caught in currents in the sea. The trash continent was “discovered” in 1997. How did I not know about this? It kept me up at night.

When I told other people about the “toxic soup” they either laughed, didn’t believe me or didn’t care. For a few weeks I went crazy and avoided plastics at all costs. Then I slowly resumed my regular routine- and other species-threatening crises took the place of the continent of trash.

Today, on my Monday morning news intake I found two articles which re-awakened this issue for me. The first was in the UK Times Online– detailing a new scientific expedition to break up the island of trash. The article explains how the plastic island formed, who discovered it, its devastating effects on the ocean and wildlife and the plan to try and remove the plastic and turn it into diesel fuel.

The second piece is a narrative by Anthony Doerr on The Morning News, in which the young father shares his personal struggle with the garbage crisis. He injects his narrative with jaw-dropping facts:

Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey found earthworms in farm fields have an average of 31 pollutants in their bodies, including perfumes, caffeine, household disinfectants, and, get this, Prozac.

… and

Extinctions are currently happening faster than they did when the dinosaurs died off, the world population is more vulnerable than ever to epidemics, and fertilizer run-off in the Gulf of Mexico has created a dead zone—an expanse of ocean without sufficient oxygen to support life—the size of New Jersey.-via The Morning News

Doerr’s not perfect, I’m not perfect- we’re all contributing to the problem. Doerr’s sensitivity to the issue and guilt about his lifestyle are familiar feelings though:

And still, I run our furnace and take long showers and fly on commercial jets. Still, I buy coffee in disposable cups and throw away bagged lettuce that has transformed overnight into dark green mush. What’s my problem?

To be fair, I’m trying. I’m starting. My wife and I recycle everything we can. We buy in bulk. We tell check-out clerks we don’t want bags. We reuse wrapping paper. I ride my bike to work.- via The Morning News

I simply hope these reads give you pause and encourage you to change your habits- even just a little bit.

2 Responses to “Trash Day: It May Be Depressing to Read, But Thank Goodness This Garbage Is Getting Covered

  • I wonder if the problem has progressed past the point where individual action is effective. Even if a significant portion of the first world makes a major effort to reduce consumption and waste, the majority of the human population living in the developing world will continue to demand the cheap, disposable products we eschew. In fact, the availability of some of the products we deride as pollutants, like fertilizers, are critical to the survival in areas of the world where famine is a real concern. On one hand we have an environmental crisis, and on the other a potential humanitarian disaster. We may very well have backed ourselves into a corner.

  • caffine and prozac, breakfast of champions! — obviously i’m just kidding, this is news to me, and really very alarming and nauseating…

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