ALBANY: Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life
of Garbage, a movie
by Heather Rogers, was shown at the April vegetarian/vegan
lasagna dinner. Afterwards, I moderated a discussion of the
movie and garbage.
In my travels and listening about the garbage issue, I have
noticed that no one wants a landfill near them. However, I
observe some statistics I learned from the movie and the book
of the same name:
- each person in the US produces an average of 4.5 pounds
of garbage per day
- the amount of garbage has almost doubled in the past
- most astounding statistic: 80% of the products we use
are designed to be used once and discarded
- there is 6 times more plastic thank zooplankton in the
Gone Tomorrow demonstrates that responsibility for garbage
has shifted from the manufacturer onto the individual.
Remember the Keep America Beautiful program? That was
created by manufacturers, an example of corporate “green-washing.” Instead
of dealing with the problem of too much stuff to throw out,
the manufacturers defined the problem as that garbage was in
the wrong place: i.e. “litter.” The Keep
America Beautiful program introduced the idea that litter
is bad, and ignored the problem of too much garbage.
The packaging industry makes a lot more money with the
use of throw-aways. Customers did not demand the throw-away
bottle; it was done to allow the bottling companies to consolidate
and grow bigger.
The three reasons for throw-away bottles are 1) forced
consumption; using a brand new bottle each time makes more
money for the packaging industry 2) supermarket chains did
not want to devote the labor to collecting bottles and 3)
the consolidation of the bottling companies.
The movie also discusses issues with recycling. People
like to recycle and want it to work; however, there are serious
limitations to recycling. Recycling only deals with waste
after it has been created and there is the issue with “down-cycling” meaning
that things can only be recycled so many times. For example,
plastic bottles may get recycled into ski jackets, but
those jackets are not in turn, recycled. Newspaper and
plastic can only be recycled so many times before the fibers
in the material break down and further recycling is not possible.
According to Heather Rogers, corporations make more money
from landfills than any other waste disposal method.
So, what do we do with the garbage? The more I study this
issue, the more I realize there are no magic bullets.
What are the choices? Bury it, burn it or toss it in the
water. I do not like those choices!
The solution to the garbage problem is many-faceted. First,
we need to reduce the amount of garbage: how about out-lawing
non-returnable bottles? Re-usable glass bottles would provide
more jobs and make a lot less garbage. We need to seriously
examine the packaging issue and the planned obsolescence
of appliances and electronic devices.
Source separation would allow food waste to be composted
and perhaps other throw-away items to be re-used first.
How about cloth napkins, returnable ceramic cups at the
coffee shop and cloth rags? What about that statistic that
80% of products made are to be used once?
We need to examine all of the solutions: and we need to
begin with reduction of garbage.
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