Tuesday, August 18, 2009


American’s have a love/hate affair with their garbage. Clearly they hate it because they don’t want it around and can’t wait to get rid of it. However they clearly they love it because they keep making more of it. Garbage, trash, refuse, disposables, rubbish, junk, waste, debris; crap by any other name would still smell as sour. There is so much garbage created that the Fishkill Landfill, outside NYC is the only other manmade object visible from space after the Great Wall of China. Except the Great Wall was built about 1000 years ago from stone blocks not Diet Coke bottles and Pampers.
In Europe recycling is free however they charge you by the pound (kilo) when your trash is hauled away. But that is silly European garbage and doesn’t contain American culture. Yes, our culture is one of consumption and with everything consumed (unless it is a buffalo and you are an Native American Indian) there is garbage left over. That’s our culture; Earn, Buy, Consume, Dispose, Repeat.

According to the Clean Air Council:

Ø American’s in 2005 generated approx 4.5 lbs of waste per day. That is 1642 lbs per year or another way to look at it: 16, 420lbs per decades. That is more than 8 tons of garbage per person per ten years.

Ø Each year, Americans trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.

Ø Americans toss out enough paper & plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. (most of those countries than lie along the equator will have no use for those items, because they are starving to death)

Ø Almost 1/3 of the waste generated the U.S. is packaging.

Ø Every year, Americans make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
(This last statistic shows some promise of being useful because had this been done prior to 2000, there would have been a greater likelihood “W” would have stayed in Crawford, TX)

Ø The amount of glass bottles Americans throw away every two weeks would have filled both World Trade Center towers.
(All of those bottles may have stopped them from collapsing)

Ø Forty-three thousand tons of food is thrown out in the United States each day. In one year that amounts to 15, 695,000 (Fifteen Billion, six hundred ninety five million) of wasted food. (How long has it been since you heard the line, “Finish you dinner there are starving children in Africa!” It use to be china but not anymore)

Ø America is home to 5% of the world's population, yet it consumes 1/3 of the Earth's timber and paper; making paper the largest part of the waste stream at 37.5% of the total waste stream.

And America is only 300 million people.
If China's per capita resource consumption were the same as in the United States today, then its projected 1.45 billion people would consume the equivalent of two-thirds of the current world grain harvest. China's paper consumption would be double the world's current production. There go the world's forests. If China one day has three cars for every four people, U.S.-style, it will have 1.1 billion cars. The whole world today has 800 million cars. It would need 99 million barrels of oil a day. Yet the world currently produces 84 million barrels per day and may never produce much more.
Source: Lester Brown, American Scientist Online

Well it’s a good thing that America, which represents about 5% of the world’s population has been able to consume about 25% of the world resources otherwise that huge military build up would have been a waste of our money. As it is, we are ready to fight to the death, (or at least send our young people to fight to the death for us) to protect our right to consume as much as we want, as quickly as we can. We are discouraged to think. We are encouraged to consume. If the opposite was true we would see more educational programming than commercials, right?

There needs to be a new plan put into place as we are ‘greening’ the planet which involves people no longer being able to ‘send out’ their trash but will have to live with it as long as it remains solid waste, once it has dissolved you can simply flush it down your toilet, nobody will know. But as long as it is solid it needs to stay with you, at home, in the car, at the office, on vacation….the trash stays with you! Soon people will be looking for ways to compost those old items that you can’t give away.

Since you have already got that burial plot picked out, why not do the planet a favor and bury your garbage in the hole, while you get cremated and fed to the gold fish. That second home may soon be the primary dump as people will be looking for creative ways to do something with their trash. Storage units are a big business these days as people have more stuff than will fit in their homes, but trash units will need to be ten times the size of the current lockers because we throw away more than we keep. But since we will no longer be able to throw anything away, ever again it will change the way we live. It will be consider a gracious and loving act to steal from people and they will thank you for making their loads lighter and their apartments roomier.
The rich will be able to hire the poor to keep their trash for them thereby increasing gainful employment for those who have lived without but are now not going to be given the choice. Since there are more poor than rich, the poor will be competing with each to get the business of keeping the trash of the rich. They will impress upon their prospective clients that they are poorer and therefore will have fewer things to buy and less trash of their own. These people will have lots of empty space that can be filled with the garbage of the wealthy which will in turn give the rich more space of their own, that allows them to consume more things. Since the poor are most likely the ones making the stuff the rich are buying doesn’t it makes sense that it goes back to them in the end? Now that is what I call recycling.
© Michael Marlin 2007

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