The road to my parents cottage last weekend... snow!Something I have been thinking about quite a bit lately is exactly how wasteful we can be (I know, my inner mind is just so interesting!!). It's just so EASY to throw something 'away', our entire system in urban settings are set up for 'out of sight, out of mind'. We Canadians (and Americans) throw our garbage to some magical land called 'away' with gusto.
According to Stats Canada, household waste makes up a whopping 40% of our national solid waste. In 2002, I (along with every other Canadian) generated 383 kg (844 lbs) of waste. Out of the 12 million tonnes (metric) generated in 2002, 2.5 million were recycled. So 9.5 million metric tonnes of solid waste was magically whisked 'away'.
First of all, where exactly is this place called 'Away'? For some North Americans it's a 'dump'. Have you ever been to a dump? I have, it's where our garbage goes in the village where I grew up and it's about 20 minutes from my house. Visualize a picturesque fishing village; little houses built on the ocean, winding roads, no sidewalks, lots of trees... Cross the highway from our turnoff and drive down a dirt road inland for about 20 minutes. Then you'll come to the Dump.
It's a huge field where the garbage is literally just dumped in piles surrounded by a huge fence. It smells and there is no escaping that these piles of plastic garbage bags are simply left in the middle of a forest. So that bag of old clothes you threw out? It's only twenty minutes away! Those old pair of shoes? Hanging out in your neighbourhood.
Since we generate so much garbage, it doesn't take long for the bags to get buried under more plastic, thus limiting the amount of sunlight and oxygen needed to break down the plastic and any organic material inside. Toxic substances leach into the soil, contaminate local water systems (there are many lakes around our dump) and pollute wildlife.
What about landfills? It sounds prettier doesn't it? Landfills are basically designated areas where huge, carbon spewing machinery plough over piles of plastic garbage with dirt. So instead of having garbage in open air, the plastic bags get buried, with no air or sunlight to break down and layers of soil to pollute. At least it controls the amount of methane that's released into the air from rotting garbage.
Really, if you seriously consider this, throwing out garbage to a dump or landfill, is essentially like choosing a random place in the forest to dump your trash. The waste management facilities are still on land, on top of soil, rained upon and connected to our local water system and plant and wildlife. It's not like a landfill has some special 'dome' encircling it- or that toxins will just 'know' to seep straight down and not over.
This isn't all to say that in our household we don't have ANY garbage. We do, and I'm trying to decrease the amount of waste we produce. We recycle (although we know that recycling plastic is just a short term solution- plastic is forever), we compost ALL food items but the big thing.... is I'm trying reduce.
It's all well and good to do the 'green' lifestyle, buying 'eco' products just seems to glamorous and trendy! Oh we love to buy STUFF. But the truth, the truth is that reducing is the greenest thing out there. Instead of feeling good about getting that salad in a container made with recycled waxed lined paper, destined for your neighbourhood landfill, bring your own container and step off the cycle.
article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com