In a previous blog, I spoke briefly about the newest garbage patch. This garbage gyre is filled mostly with, but not limited to, microbeads and microplastics. A garbage Gyre, commonly known as a “garbage patch,” is a trash vortex in which there are an estimated 13 pounds of slow degrading waste for every 2 pounds of natural plankton. There are five of these garbage gyres, which sit in the middle of the oceans, in various locations, all over the world. A garbage patch swirls slowly around like a clock, choked with dead fish, marine mammals and birds that get snared. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most publicized garbage patch. The Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be twice the size of Texas.
I heard someone ask one time “how does this trash get out there?” Simply said, it gets into this swirling “Patch,” in any number of ways. Honestly, if you can think of it, even when the ideas seem absurd, it is likely to be the case. We must remember that where ever we drop litter, it does not stay. Meaning that this dropped garbage does not magically disappear. Rain and wind push it into a ditch, then to a local stream, then a river, lastly to the ocean and the closest garbage patch. Yes, of course, this is an extreme oversimplification. However, I am trying to make the point that when you drop trash on the ground, more often than you might think, it helps these garbage patches grow even larger. “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.”
We seem to live in a disposable, throw away world. Our world, filled with reusable throwaway containers and many types of packaging. This disposable packaging is everything from fast-food packaging, to Ziploc bags and even hard plastic canisters. It also has PLENTY of wrappers as we tend to wrap nearly everything. We have candy and food bar wrappers, the plastic that covers the clothing we order online. EVERYTHING seems to be excessively (IMHO) pre-wrapped. Most of these items do not get used, and yet, merely help fill our landfills. Many people feel they need 47 napkins when they order that one burger or those 12 packets of ketchup for that one order of French fries when they order from that drive up window. Here is some information that is not good, for this “big blue marble” where we all live. 55 percent of our “recyclables” goes into landfills. 33 percent, of this waste we plan to recycle, actually gets recycled. Lastly, 12.5 percent of our recyclables gets burned in incinerators.
Not convinced this is an issue? Try these numbers. Americans generated 254 million tons of trash in 2013. That equals 4.6 pounds per person per day. Of that garbage, 65% came from residents, and thirty-five percent comes from commercial locations, like schools, hospitals, and businesses. Only 87 million tons, of that 254 million tons, was recycled or composted. That means that on average, we recycled or composted a mere 1.5 pounds of our individually generated trash of 4.6 pounds per day. We desperately need to work on those terrible numbers.
We don’t often think about our trash, although, some of you might. The very few times that I thought about it, I merely thought “when in the landfill, it will decompose.” Sadly, that is not the case. For something to decompose it needs air and water. Landfills are “sealed” meaning they get neither water nor air. There are three types of these landfills, municipal solid waste which takes in household waste and nonhazardous waste. There is industrial waste including all industrial and commercial waste. Lastly, there is hazardous waste. Sadly, rarely is discussed our landfill alternatives.
We need to do our best to preserve this planet for the future generations, as well as for ourselves. As Chief Seattle said in 1854: (I am paraphrasing) “All things are connected…whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth.” All of this reminds us that what we do to the earth we are doing to ourselves.