Welcome back to the Conscious Consumerism intro series!
Today, we present to you:
Conscious Consumerism, Part 2 – Waste
by Lore and Lotus Founder Jackie Brink
Alright, grab yourself a wine (or tea), and get comfy, because this is gona be a fairly long read.
In Part 1, Guest Blogger Melody Duarte briefly introduced us to the current state of the world and conscious consumerism, and a few ways you can aid the planet. Melody's overview introduced us to the following main perpetrators: fast fashion, the food industry, and single-use plastic. Today's journal will continue on the theme of Conscious Consumerism by tackling Waste produced by these, and other industries and how (or if) we can tackle some of these issues. First I want to say, I am by no means, an expert on Waste. I just think it's important to bring awareness to the issue and hopefully highlight some facts to get us thinking about the effects of Waste on our planet.
Wait. Waste? What do you mean by waste? According to the ever-handy Wikipedia, waste is described as follows:
Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or is worthless, defective and of no use.
So, Waste is a substance which is of no use.
Waste is the offal of the industries that produce the most pollution on our planet.
Canonically, there are 5 types of Waste:
- Liquid Waste
- Solid Waste - Garbage
- Organic Waste
- Recyclable Rubbish
- Hazardous Waste
And these are Pollution types caused by Waste:
- Air Pollution
- Garbage Pollution
- Plastic Pollution
- Water Pollution
- Land & Beach Pollution
Waste takes on the following forms in the following industries, (but please keep in mind this is only a partial list). Waste comes in so many, many more forms it is almost impossible to quantify, at least for the sake of this one journal entry:
- Water (Run off from facilities, Dying process)
- Textiles (Overstock fabric, Swatches, and textile snippets cut from clothing production, which almost certainly is almost always thrown out)
- Thrown out clothing (Most of the clothes you don't buy end up thrown out by fast fashion corporations, and in most cases, cut up or destroyed in some way before they are tossed out. Some policy is being complimented in come countries or in some corporations, but in most cases this isn't regulated. Also, our own clothing that we grow tired of and either do not want to donate or are stained/ripped, etc.)
- Shopping Bags, Plastic or Paper, tags and receipts
- Shipping (Boxes, Packing Slips, Plastic Packaging for clothes)
- Grocery Shopping Bags & Produce Bags
- Food Waste (from Home, tossing out leftovers, letting food rot)
- Food Waste (from Supermarkets & Groceries)
- Food Waste (from Animal processing plants)
- Food Waste (from Restaurants)
- Food Packaging (Plastic Bottles, candy wrappers, bags for apples, lettuce box, etc.)
- Fast Food Packaging (Water bottles, take away food containers, plastic silverware, napkins, plastic cups, straws, and lids, you name it)
- Destruction of natural lands and rain forests to sustain the production of livestock, produce, farms, and oils
Single-Use and other Plastics, a form of Waste from the Fashion, Food, Cosmetic and pretty much every other Industries.
- Micro-plastics in clothing (surprisingly, several textiles are made of plastic-based materials)
- Micro-plastic in cosmetics (plastic beads, chemicals, etc)
- Containers for cosmetics and food
- Food Packaging
- Fast Food Packaging
- Shopping Bags & Produce Bags
Other waste (for a different story), but you should know about:
- Carbon Emissions (from cars, planes, and livestock), which is a large cause of Global Warming...
- Gases (Landfill, Power)
Waste is everywhere. It comes from everywhere. We produce it on such as massive scale as a society and even as individuals that even at home average Americans produce 4.4 bags of garbage a day! With the current demand for More, More, More, More; bigger, better, faster, sooner, humans produce A LOT of waste. Like, so much, it is hardly fathomable. The US alone produced 38.5 million tones of JUST PLASTIC Waste in 2018.1 38.5 MILLION TONS! Imagine that. Now imagine that with the rapid population growth and urbanization we are experiencing, the annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% and up to 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050.2 And the the total plastic waste generated in the US alone is growing, by 3.8% per year.1 That might not sound like a lot in percentages, but it is the equivalent of 1.4+ Million tons a year, and let's remember that 1 Ton (US) is 2,000 lbs! Speaking of plastic waste, did you know that the US is listed as #20 on the list of countries 'contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean with an estimated 88 to 242 million pounds/year of plastic marine debris.'3 Yikes.
But, where does it all go ?
It doesn't just go away. When you throw your single-use plastic bottle away, or your clothes, or your old food, it doesn't just go away - it goes somewhere. Somewhere people don't want to think about. It goes to landfill, it goes to dumps, it goes to a variety of countries in Asia (many of whom are sending the garbage boats back to their home ports at this point in time due to over pollution), it goes into the ocean. It gets dumped on the side of the road or tossed in piles of mountain high waste dumps that poison the land and pollute the rivers, and run right into the sea.
Essentially, it goes into our home, our air, our water.
What's most disturbing is that many landfills (across the globe), lack a sufficient on-site waste management or plan, and contribute to even more threats on our environment... You see, landfills leak and pollute ground water, and give off potentially unsafe gases, making waste difficult to manage and threatening our environment. Also did you know that according to a study in 2015 from UC Santa Barbara, that somehow, 'almost 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the world's oceans annually.'3 Sadly, plastic thrown 'into seas every year can kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures.'3 And those were just the 2015 numbers! In 2018 it was worse, and today, Whales, Dolphins, Turtles and literally almost every other ocean species is consuming plastic - and subsequently dying. A whale washed up on shore just a few months ago with 88 pounds of plastic in its gut.4 That plastic waste was its direct cause of death.
When Waste doesn't end up in landfill, or in the sea, it may in some rare cases - go to recycling separation facilities (but likely not). Recycling is not what it seems, either. Recycling is not yet a solution. For one, tons and tons of recyclable waste is sent over seas - to countries like China, Malaysia and others. And they're no longer accepting it. Most of these countries even sent it back! Where does it go then? Most of it ends up in landfills... Unfortunately, recent statistics from the EPA state that "a whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled"!5 Really only less than 10% of our waste gets recycled. WTF. It may be combusted, but the majority, 75.4% and up, ends up in landfills.6 And much to my own shock, and I hope to yours, the US's Recycling Rate actually dropped in 2018, while the US plastic generation is increasing!! Read here for the stats.7 I don't know about you but that sounds absolutely backwards to me. Why would our production go up on such a deadly resource, but our recycling decrease?
The truth is, our endless supply of man-made Waste is only growing. And it doesn't go away. It doesn't disappear, it doesn't disintegrate. Plastic takes more than 400-500, and possibly up to a 1,000 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. For example, your average household plastic toothbrush may take over 400 years to decompose! What's worse, though is that landfills are designed to avoid degradation of plastics, so plastic remains indefinitely. Think about that. Then, think about that fact that we are marketed to replace our toothbrush on average of every 2-3 months... a person. That's about 6 toothbrushes a person (times approximately 7 billion people) a year thrown in the trash. And that's just Toothbrushes! But they don't go away, they will exist forever in a landfill, but worse, if they're not in a landfill, they will spend centuries degrading into micro-particles that land animals, fish and marine life consume...that we consume. Literally. Recently it was researched that, the average human eats the equivalent of a credit card of micro plastics EVERY WEEK. That's literally 5 grams of plastic every week! 8 OMG. Is that not horrifying?
Waste, and it's effects - Pollution, Global Warming, Loss of Habitat, and Endangered Animals- is the biggest problem we face as a society. The level of waste produced right now is considered one of the direct causes of Climate Change, and it will only get worse.
There are some small things we as individuals can do to tackle waste - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renovate - and these will be discussed in a later Conscious Consumerism journal, but the reality is that the world's Governments and Corporations need to be tackling Waste. Now. Today. Policy needs to change. Management plans for Waste removal and landfill needs to be revised. Most waste and single-use plastics need to be banned immediately (and no, I don't mean just straws).
We need to rise up as a community, as a country, as a planet, and make changes to save our world. Or it won't be the world as we know it....and I don't mean in 100 years or more, I mean in this decade.