You CAN do something

I sometimes feel that these posts get sucked into a cyber vacuum and nobody really bothers to read them. And then I get tons of feedback and I feel my rants are not in vain. Yesterday’s shocker about the state of our oceans drew a good few responses. The overiding sense is ‘so what can we do about it?’ Indeed, how CAN we act/react to something so seemingly insurmountable.

One of my readers passed on a frightening little article about the Pacific Garbage patch…or soup as it is now known. It is something we have all heard about (and would prefer it were not true). It is I am afraid…read below.

But it brings me to today’s point. Here’s something you can do…and you can start TODAY.

Just become plastics savvy. Stop buying the wretched stuff. It is possible to avoid it while traipsing down the shopping aisles. Find stuff that is NOT wrapped in plastic. Avoid anything remotely disposable – from utensils, to pens, to razors, to cigarette lighters. Just don’t go there.

When you walk on the beach or anywhere near a coastal area, TAKE A BAG and pick up anything that is ‘out of place’ (you won’t struggle to fill several bags, believe me). Recycle all the plastic you do find and dispose of the rest (in the hope that the municipal dump is positioned far enough away from the coast, of course!)

The photo above is of a haul of rubbish collected off our local beach a few days ago. On this short 40 minute walk, my family (the three of us) collected three shopping bags and a plastic crate full of stuff. Mostly plastic. Included in this = three cigarette lighters!!!

Snippets from the plastic soup article follows….read it and weep, but THEN take up arms and do something about it!

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.
The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic,” he added.

… unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. “Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere,” said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.
Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden /


Waste not, want not?

I have just spent 11 hours wading through other people’s trash. Yep! I am feeling a little jaded, I stink to high heaven, and am in dire need of a very tall glass of wine. I am also wondering why, why, why!??
I volunteered my services at our community fair. As the manager of the recycling depot based at our local farm village, I thought I should (for the third year running) ensure that our little annual fair does its best to reduce the volumes of waste sent to landfill. Every year, we try and get the system to work more efficiently.
I am not sure how many people passed through the gates today, but I would guess close on about 15 000? That is 15 000 bodies all producing cans, glass, food, plastic waste and other unmentionables.

And my word …did they produce it!

I have mixed feelings about how the day went. We managed to separate out about 20 large bags of drinks cans, 8 large bags of plastic bottles and general plastic, a large volume of cardboard and many kg’s of glass.

This, however, meant wading through pile after pile of mixed waste all day. As in, picking cans, plastic or glass bottles out from a veritable quagmire of potato peels, melted ice cream, soggy tissues, paper plates, disposable coffee cups and dirty nappies.
It was hideous.

I got stuck in. All day. I did so because I wanted to and because I needed to keep tabs on things at our little temporary depot. I could have left it for my team of Malawians to do it all, but there were times when I could see that things would have gone pear-shaped had I not been there to monitor the ‘processing’.

So I got my hands dirty…and in doing so, I got up close and personal with the really, truly, shitty side of humanity. I got a good sense of just how foul we are…and how much work needs to be done.

If I do this again, I will approach things so very differently.

In the past I have gone the route of separate bins with big fat labels for people to separate intelligently. Alas, this has never worked. This year, I chose to go for “General Waste” bins, glass bins and drums labelled “Cans”. All great on paper, but people still insist on dumping their half eaten hot dog in the drum labelled “Cans”….or shove a dripping nappy into the “Glass” bin. Hence the need to still wade through said mush.
I had many people comment on how I could do things better. Some rushed up to tell me how my team were doing it all wrong. All very helpful.
The solution? To have four waste management stations for the entire event. At each station, we have a human being and bins marked for each waste type. The human being assists/directs/polices all the dysfunctional folk who appear unable to separate their waste on their own. This is clearly THE ONLY WAY IT WILL WORK.

But in saying this, I feel a rising sense of despair. I worry that this is all wrapped up (pardon the pun) in where we are heading as a planet. If we cannot manage the most basic of basics….where we put our waste… and we fail to see the connection between tossing it all away and climate change/habitat loss/our kid’s bloody future!!!….then what hope is there for us all?
It is a really basic place to start.

I fear that I am suffering from ‘green fatigue’.

Time to whip up new energy within to go out and try and show people the connections. Such simple connections.

I hope to wake up tomorrow with this new energy and a whole bucket-load of hope for us all as a species!