Trashed Our Planet

“We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it. Does anyone think about what happens to all the trash we produce?”

Last week I attended a viewing of the film/documentary on “Trashed” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2401099/). I was assuming that I would know a lot of the content, as I currently study a conservation topic (in which pollution and litter is talked about as a main issue) as well as currently taking on the challenge of trying to create a zero-waste lifestyle (with a view to move to zero-plastic, as here a lot of plastic is recycled)……. but I was oh so wrong.

“We produce too much waste, we don’t think of the consequences when we throw away.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2401099/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2401099/

“Each year, we now throw away fifty-eight billion disposable cups, billions of plastic bags, 200 billion litres of water bottles, billions of tons of household waste, toxic waste and e-waste.”

The film opened my eyes to the extent of the waste issue in countries around the world, the consequences of which are still largely unknown! It starts by showing the huge trash mountain in Saida, Lebanon that has been growing for decades. This waste decomposes slowly, leeching harmful chemicals into the water, that not only harms the wildlife, but could have detrimental effects for the poorer people living in the slums nearby, drinking and washing in the chemical-filled water. Grants and loans have been given to the government from nearby countries (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Libya) who have been affected by excess trash finding its way to the oceans and washing up on their beaches, but this money seems to have amounted to nothing, because the local people interviewed stated that nothing has been done to reduce the waste mountain.

“It seems to be a case of out of sight, out of mind.”

Plastic seemed to be a major point in the film, as it takes the longest time to break down – if at all. We currently have estimates about how long different plastics take to break down but no actual evidence as this could take hundreds of years. We’re using up landfills at an accentuated rate (so fast that the landfill sites are accumulating more waste than they’re licenced to do), we’re trying to incinerate rubbish (with the harmful effects of microscopic chemicals leeching into the atmosphere and finding its way into our meat and milk- as happened in Iceland to a farm near an incineration plant that has now been shut down), and new research shows that even our oceans are not plastic free. Many people are under the impression (as was I) that the plastic in the ocean is made up of large items from ships that accumulate in the middle of current circles, but the problem is so much larger than that. Although plastic agglomerations do occur, the whole ocean is polluted with plastic. Research trawls have been conducted to test the very top of the ocean surface. Not a single trawl conducted (anywhere in the ocean) was clean of plastic. EVERY trawl contained some plastic, whether it was palm sized pieces, small broken down pieces as small as grains of sand, or microscopic pieces (mainly it was a mixture of all of the above). No wonder the deceased marine animals are being washed up on our beaches full of plastic they have ingested!

“Somehow in the deep ocean we’ve got more trash than life.”

“We’re putting the entire planet on a plastic diet, the consequences of which are still unknown.”

“Nature functions by building up and breaking down, building up and breaking down. We keep putting things into the environment that don’t break down.”

During the Vietnam war (1962-1971), the United States sprayed herbicide (Agent Orange) over almost 12% of the land in Vietnam….. and they are still being affected by it. Children are still being born with birth defects, ranging from missing limbs and eyes, to mental disorders. These cases are so numerous that special institutes have been set up to give these children the best possible care. It takes 6 generations to eliminate the effects of these toxins (if the people are removed from the toxin-saturated area). Unfortunately these people have no choice but to live in these areas, so the effects will still be seen for longer than 6 generations. The toxins in Agent Orange that cause these defects are also found in all incineration methods.

“Everyone in the population today has these chemicals in their body.”

“We’re really going to need another home for the civilisation if we continue to use our natural resources at the pace we are using them now.”

Some places are taking steps to reduce the waste we’re producing:

  • San Francisco has a manditory composting and recycling scheme which has reduced waste by 78%
  • London has stores which don’t use packaging, reducing waste (especially plastic), reduces prices and reduces food waste (people only buy exactly what they want). The shop manager said “it usually takes three tries for [shoppers] to remember everything, and then they get the hang of it.”

“We’re consuming the earth and we’re destroying the biosphere. That’s suicide.”

“We did it with the smoking and the smoking ban, we did it with seat belts and wearing seat belts, we did it with drink driving actually when that became unacceptable, we need to do this.”

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