GÜNTHER SCHUBERT – For as long as humans have roamed the planet we have created garbage. Away back then, it might have been a pile of animal bones, vegetable rinds or worn clothes. For the last one hundred or so years, we have created piles of plastic, glass, paper, rubber and metal littering all our environment.
As the planet is speeding towards a climate breakdown, we find ourselves fighting wars on many fronts, one of them against garbage, the most visual, often right under our noses.
Researchers tell us that there are now micro plastics in water, soil and even in the air on every continent of the planet. Traces of various levels of plastics are found in animals and humans alike. Whole islands of garbage are growing larger in the oceans, only to be broken up by mega storms and then wash up on our beaches. Marine life is greatly endangered through ingesting particles and entanglement. Meantime on the continents, many waterways, forests, fields, meadows, cities, towns, roadsides. Parks are contaminated. Landfill sites are overflowing and expanding on to farm land, to then be covered with a few feet of dirt and left to rot and ferment while contaminating the soil, groundwater and air for years to come. Wealthy countries ship their trash across oceans to poor countries, often causing contamination and poisoning of their own environment.
Many factors cause all that garbage: overpopulation, consumerism, convenience, packaging, making profits, poverty, lack of education and awareness, funding or just blatantly not caring for the environment.
Those of us who have travelled in developing countries will have seen much unsightly trash only a few steps away from hotels and tourist sites. It always pains my heart to see people allowing their community to turn into a garbage pit. In North America, garbage contamination is not due to the lack of infrastructure to dispose of it, nor lack of education (most children will participate at one point at a school organized cleanup.)
For many, there seems to be a disconnect with nature and lack of awareness of the contamination garbage can cause. Selfish and careless individuals will continue to toss out coffee cups, wrappers or dog-poop baggies. Billions of cigarette butts are tossed out every day, their plastic fibre filters lead the list of garbage found in the environment worldwide. The breaking down of these filters in time allows their small particles to be absorbed by water and soil. A slow and deadly process. There seems to be an inherent disrespect of nature and fellow citizens.
To prevent a total and fatal plastic contamination of the entire planet, a major shift needs to happen.
Stop making kitsch and useless junk!
Industries must produce quality products that last longer. It all ends up as garbage. Governments must educate and regulate production of consumer products. If it is junk don’t allow it to be made, imported or sold. We consumers must reduce our hunger for buying inferior and useless stuff.
Retail must reduce packaging, sell quality products and introduce refunds. Just imagine, a Tim Horton’s coffee cup has a $1.00 deposit.
Of course, the production and shipping of all that material consumes huge quantities of energy and raw material.
How to be part of the solution to garbage
All of us must get involved in cleaning up the environment. It gives us a sense of ownership and responsibility for the planet.
- Start right outside our homes and neighbourhoods, then county roads, ravines, creeks, lakeshores and beaches.
- Join in municipalities’ and organizations’ Spring Clean ups. Here in Peterborough Mayor Jeff Leal issued a Rotary Club prompted proclamation calling on all citizens to participate and help clean our community during Earth week at the end of April. Several community organizations, church groups and businesses are coming out to clean up trash accumulated throughout the winter month.
- Start your own initiative with family, kids, friends or colleagues and be part of a solution. Adopt a section of a park, a path, a ravine, a beach near you and keep it clean throughout the year. Your connection to that piece of land will change you from a frustrated bystander to a participant and steward.
- And always remember to bring a plastic bag with you on your walks − you’ll need it.