The title of this essay is true, both figuratively and literally. Today, I am concerned with the literal – the vast mountains of trash that litter our land and water.
In earlier times, most people had fewer things and what they had – like string and paper — was quite expensive and treasured so it was saved for multiple uses.
In earlier times, there was far less packaging of any sort. When shopping, people carried their own sacks to bring home their purchases. Today, probably half the trash in homes comes from discarded packaging.
Why are we doing this to ourselves and our precious world?
Packaging has become an essential part of the selling process for a simple reason: it costs far less than advertising. Packaged goods rely on attractive containers to catch the eyes of consumers, communicating an array of values – thrift, strength, luxury — with materials, colors, fonts, and graphics .
Other parts of the trash in our lives are the excess we purchase to get what we want and need. How much waste is created when you – and millions of others — buy a dozen of something you want just to get the 6 you need.
And, to make matters worse, our system does everything it can to maintain these excesses. If we all, by simple discipline or a need for frugality, cut out 25% (which is not impossible) of our purchases, the economy all around us would shrink, jobs would be lost and we might fall into a depression. So we are stuck in a self-fulfilling path of more, more, more……
Is that a good idea? And, how might we work around that cul de sac and turn it to our and the world’s advantage?
The first and essential step, of course, is to get the population to acknowledge the issue/problem. That itself will be very difficult; but let’s assume a can opener and pry open the process for starters.
If peer pressure and education campaigns (think about the successful sorting of today’s trash) could reduce the amount of trash by 5% a year for 5 years, using economic incentives from money saved in trash handling—we could make a good start. Spreading it out over 5 years would mitigate significant economic adverse consequences, and the overall result would be less trash messing up our planet and more disposable income in the form of “trash coupons” to be spent on things NOT requiring packaging!
This problem and related problems with having to constantly GROW everything in our lives to remain competitive in our worlds merits more concern than we have been aware.
Our global population is now about 7 ½ billion people. If we stay on that trajectory for a very few years, we will run out of adequate and affordable food and water for millions of people all over the globe, with who knows what grave consequences. This year’s election is a leading edge indicating the kinds of problems we need to foresee.
We must figure out how to reverse the trend of ever more AND at the same time solve our global common problems.
Perhaps a good place to start and experiment is with our own trash bins?