The observable examined

An eye opener – that’s garbage!

with one comment

For those of us who mindlessly engage in consumption binges, have you considered what happens to all the material waste you produce (if you have not caught on, I am not talking about the stuff drained down the toilet)? I think I know the answer.  There was a very interesting piece in the WSJ – Grappling With a Garbage Glut – which gives us enormous cause for pause and some soul searching. Among industrialized nations, the USA is the worst offender, no surprise here, dumping on average about 7 lbs per person per day which translates to about 102 tons per year! Staggering. Some other facts, 19 billion pounds of polystyrene peanuts make their way to the landfills. Disposable cutlery (knives, forks and spoons) waste is about 40 billion! There is enough steel in the garbage dumps to reconstruct the whole of Manhattan!! And get this, Texas can be shrink wrapped with the plastic film at the landfills.  Ridiculous.

I grew up in India in a middle class family. There were no big box retail chains. I helped my parents shop vegetables every week. I carried a bag to the store. Groceries were packed in old newspapers. Biodegradable jute fiber was used to bind the newspaper packing. My parents still use containers which are now probably 40+ yrs old (mind you, they are made of plastic and are almost in pristine condition). Table cleanup in hotels used the stems of banana leaves. Food in restaurants were served on banana leaves (not everywhere though). The used leaves served as food for the cows. There are many other examples. There was much efficiency. Recycling was a natural outcome of the economics of daily life.

I have despaired on the last few visits. Surely, the standard of living has improved enormously because of globalization. But it comes at a huge hidden cost. Rampant consumerism (a sad side effect of the world is flat paradigm) is a Western cultural export that has taken a firm foothold in India now. The problem is compounded because the disposal and recovery mechanisms, and infrastructure, for waste management are not as advanced as in the West.  Well, you get the idea.

Here in the US, in the name of saving the environment and weaning shoppers away from plastic bags, a whole cottage industry has sprung up, making millions of reusable bags adding more junk to the mix. I am sure there are designer labels versions available to the wealthy.

Talking of designer labels, in a different section of this weekend’s WSJ, there was another piece on how designers/labels are now eyeing plastic clothing. The title – Plastic is Fantastic.  Go figure!

I wonder if all the garbage we generate will do us in before the oft talked about nuclear winter. But I am hopeful because we will come up with some innovation (nanotechnology, garbage death ray – mentioned in the article…..). In fact, we must.

If you are interested in the topic, you should also check out this fantastic thought experiment – A World Without Us.


Written by asterix98

April 15, 2012 at 1:42 am

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Reblogged this on Cleantech Solutions.

    Salman Zafar

    April 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: