Strolling from my house, emerald coloured lorikeets screeching and the day’s warmth receding into a pale pink sky, I marvel at the rubbish I pass along the way. Rusty old appliances, couches with ripped upholstery and a rotting bookcase dumped on the footpath. Once functional and treasured items, now discarded, no longer wanted. Waiting expectedly to be claimed by others or collected by the local waste disposal service.
I wander towards the brook, bounded by lush foliage, the air pierced by screaming bats awaking from their day’s slumber, the chatter of children on scooters and whoosh of cyclists. Plastic bottles and bags, food wrappers and takeaway coffee cups floating on the water’s surface, tangled in trees and crushed into grass disrupt the moment. Remnants of a throwaway society. Unfortunately, litter is not unique to this area, as I’ve found on my travels. The way I’m carrying on you’d think I live in the filthiest suburb ever. I don’t. If you visited me you might even wonder what I’m going on about. Sadly, I think that seeing rubbish on our streets and in nature appears to have become somewhat normal. Just part of everyday life.
Awareness of waste and its impacts seems to be growing, especially in relation to things we can see or measure easily. Waste stories litter the media: landfills belching methane and leaching chemicals into groundwater, birds and marine life choked with plastic, surfers riding on a sea of trash. Waste has been popularised recently by TV series such as ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’ in the UK and the ‘War on Waste’ in Australia, claiming that Australia’s waste is growing at a rate of 8% per year. And there are many groups and organisations dedicated to reducing food waste (see my post ‘Food is for Eating‘ on this).
Other impacts may not be so visible or can be difficult to directly connect to our wasteful habits. As we are constantly producing so much stuff that we only use for a short amount of time before discarding, we are churning through elements of nature used to create, transport and sell these goods. Water. Land. Forests. Minerals. Fossil fuels. And the environmental and social consequences of this process are widespread, as illustrated by this youtube clip: The Story of Stuff.
So, what should we do about all this waste? In an attempt to keep these posts short and sweet… I’ll discuss my thoughts on this in a few days. Watch this space!