Follow the Trash

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Nature, Podcast, the Madfarmer, Waste Management | Posted on 02-02-2009

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by the Madfarmer

I recently came across a podcast about trash. It doesn’t sound interesting but I actually found it quite enlightening. For example, in the northern Pacific Ocean there exists a gigantic, slowly moving spiral of currents known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Besides being filled with phytoplankton it is also the world’s largest landfill. It has given birth to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and scientists estimate its size as two times bigger than Texas. Plastic constitutes 90 percent of trash both there and in all the world’s oceans. The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.

Now I don’t generally categorize myself as a tree hugger, save the whales type of guy. But I do try to remain connected to my actions even if I don’t see the direct consequences of them. We too often don’t consider our impact on the world because society successfully insulates us from the results. Remaining connected to our decisions and their direct or indirect consequences should cause us to think twice about everything we do. If I toss this plastic bottle into that trashcan, what happens next? Where will it go once it is emptied? How long will it stay there? Where will its final destination be? For many of those plastic bottles they will end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This type of thinking should revolutionize our decision-making. If I buy this generic coffee, who am I actually paying the money to? If I buy the shirt that was made in Indonesia, am I financing child labor? If I eat beef from a confined animal feeding operation, what am I actually putting into my body and the ground?

These are questions many of us already ask on a daily basis. Continually educating ourselves and others around us about our choices is making a difference albeit at a remarkably slow pace. Ask yourself and those around you a few more questions than usual. The answers may make a difference.