by Rebecca Deely
The paper cup, the straw, the lid, and even the stack of eco-conscious-brown-paper- napkins used to wipe up the drops of mystery liquid from the table, will all succumb to their dreary and unavoidable destiny of being a pile of trash that will grow exponentially faster than it can erode.
Creating trash may seem unavoidable, but gaining a little perspective on the problem and making small but meaningful changes to everyday trashy habits can dramatically cut back on the sheer amount of garbage made each year.
First, a little perspective.
According to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans throw away enough paper and plastic eating tools to circle the equator 300 times. We as Americans also use approximately 102.1 billion plastic bags a year. Contrary to what some believe, plastic bags are not biodegradable. The sun, air and elements break them down bitty enough to be ingested by all the different species living in our oceans and contaminate soil and water sources.
A number of different dot-orgs with trash stats all seem to agree that Americans generate approximately 4.5 pounds of waste each day. The United States Census Bureau counted 313.9 million people in the US in 2012. With some simple math: 4.5(313,900,000) = 1,412,550,000 pounds of litter created in the United States each day, on average.
Since this is a blog and I’m allowed to assert my opinion, here it is.
One point four billion pounds of filth everyday is a reflection of a common delusion that when we toss an empty bottle into a trash-can, the bottle is suddenly “gone.” Until of course we take all of our bottles, bags and boxes to the curb and a truck comes to collect it… now it is “long-gone.”
Of course, we really know it’s not. Out-of-sight-out-of-mind is not a valid excuse for not trying to cut back. And, out-of-sight is a privilege enjoyed only by some. In many countries, trash isn’t collected by business and isn’t compiled by anyone. There are landfills between houses and junk-mountains at the end of neighborhood blocks.
Everyone is guilty of excusing their own consumption and creation of trash to be insignificant, but if everyone attempted to change a few trivial trash habits the impact could be gargantuan.
A few simple rules to live by:
1. Get and use a reusable coffee mug and water cup.
2. Your hands can carry things just as good as bags.
3. Zip-lock bags can be washed. So can plastic forks, spoons, cups and plates.
4. Lids and straws for soda cups are almost always never necessary
5. Donate old books and magazines to a local library.
6. Always check out used clothing and furniture stores before buying new.
7. Buying Styrofoam coolers as a “cheap” option is a farce. You’ll end up buying a new one every time and Styrofoam hates the Earth.
8. Paper-towels as a “hand-drying” tool in a home is lazy and expensive, use a hand-towel.
9. Opt for bulk-food options available at grocery store. Less packaging and the food is usually more locally sourced. When you think about it, reuse your bulk-buying baggies.