The size of garbage mountains, increasing in size and stench every day outside the world’s cities, is dwarfed in size by the human stupidity which made them in the first place. Our garbage not only pollutes our own immediate environment, encouraging the spread of disease and accidents, but destroys natural habitats and endangers thousands of species around the globe.
Take a walk outside and see how far you can get before you come across some garbage. Chances are, if you live in a city, you won’t get further than a few paces. Things are better in the countryside, but by a narrow margin. Anywhere there’s a road or a track, you’ll find plastic, aluminum, rubber and all kinds of other materials, discarded by people who couldn’t be bothered to dispose of them in an environmentally-friendly way.
Most people don’t consider the amount of waste we dump into the sea, either. For most people, the sea is something they look down on from the airplane window as they come to touch down at some exotic beach resort for a vacation. Unfortunately, the sea doesn’t take long to confront them with its anger – strewing everything from rocket parts to oil slick across the beaches (that looked so pristine in the brochure). For the good volunteers that care for the beaches, cleaning them is something of a Sisyphean task.
So, how did it get so bad? Well, it’s possible that you’re a bigger part of the problem than you thought. Think of the amount of junk mail that you receive and end up throwing away. From now on, open each junk letter and contact the company by email or phone to insist they stop sending you mail. You can recycle the paper until the trickle of junk mail finally stops.
There are plenty of other household items that we are too ready to throw away. Most people still use disposable plastic toothbrushes, for example. If you use a plastic toothbrush, keep it. Once it is no longer usable for cleaning your teeth, use when cleaning your home, to reach into awkward nooks and crannies. In the meantime, go out and choose yourself an electric toothbrush that is ideally suited to you and will save you from having to dispose of so much plastic. Toothbrush Best is a good place to start looking.
Stop taking plastic shopping bags from the supermarket. Although you may reuse these as garbage receptacles, they eventually get thrown out and will still be polluting our planet long after humans have become extinct. Instead, use a woven shopping bag or basket. You can even make this yourself, to such a high quality that it should last you for the rest of your life. You could, in fact, avoid the supermarket altogether – supermarkets are huge producers of waste, what with their excess packaging, global transportation networks and policies such as throwing away perfectly good, but unattractive food and prosecuting hungry people who try to consume it. Instead, take your basket along to your local market. The food is likely to be fresher, healthier and devoid of plastic wrappers and metal tins which end up getting thrown away.
Learn how to repair household items, clothes and appliances. Most people need a phone and a laptop or tablet these days. Buy a model which will last you a long time. Many fashionable brands rely on their products ‘giving up’ after a couple of years, forcing their owners to hand over more money for a replacement, while the old phone or tablet gets thrown into landfill or worse.
Another huge amount of waste comes from kids’ toys, wanted and unwanted. Aside from rare, generation-busting exceptions, almost all kids’ toys get thrown away within a year or two of being purchased. Just think about the insanity of it – all the energy and resources that go into producing some plastic toy, the energy expended earning money to pay for it, fly it around the world and package it. Then some kid unwraps it, plays with it for a week and then it joins the millions of other unwanted toys somewhere in the mountains of garbage. To avoid this, buy your children tools that they can learn skills for life and be creative with. Teach them woodwork, metalwork and needlework so that they can make and repair their own toys and clothes. That is a gift they will thank you for during the rest of their years, unlike some overpriced plastic fad sitting on a superstore shelf.