Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Earth: "This Godawful mess"

To give this post an astrological flavour I'll invite passing visitors, before reading on, to crank up their inner Virgo (responsible, careful, health conscious), and their inner Saturn (self-discipline, thrift).......then continue:
And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: "Look at this Godawful mess." ~ Art Buchwald, humorist
By the time I left its fair shores in 2004, recycling had become way of life in England. Local authorities provided separate garbage bins for our newspapers. Centres for collection of other items, such as glass and aluminium cans, were plentiful in most neighbourhoods. Here in Oklahoma it's a different story. Few facilities to encourage recycling exist, and whenever some do emerge they are short-lived.

For a few years we ferried our collection of newspapers and aluminium cans the 35 miles to a recycling collection centre in a neighbouring city. Then the military base in that city, whose staff collected recycling materials from several centres, was prevented, by Department of Defense financial constraints, from continuing the collections. Later a few, smaller, re-cycling bins were replaced in school locations.

Then, about a year ago, Power Shop, an organisation which helps to provide jobs for people with disabilities set up a re-cycling centre in our town. We were able to deposit paper, cans, cardboard, and plastic bottles there regularly. The centre seemed to be doing good business, but last week, when we visited to deposit some newspapers, we were told that the centre is closing, is now closed in fact, for re-cycling, but will continue to accept donations of aluminium cans. Reason: it hasn't made a profit. “We had a grand idea that we believed would provide jobs for people with disabilities, help the community, save the earth and make money,” the executive director said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it did everything except make money.”

Ye gods!!! Surely the state or city or federal government could subsidise something as important as this, so that profit need not be paramount? I should send a letter or a copy of this post, perhaps, to the state's governor, Mary Fallin - but it's a lost cause. A standard letter would be the response, as it was when I wrote to our Senator Tom Coburn about health care reform. They. Don't. Care. In this as in many spheres Oklahoma lags behind the rest of the US. I should not tar the whole of the US with the same brush. The following is from Encyclopedia of Earth's Recycling section

.....In particular, the culture of consumption of post-World War II America re-enforced carelessness, waste, and a drive for newness. Environmental concerns contributed to a new "ethic" within American culture that began to value restraint, re-use, and living within limits. This ethic of restraint, fed by over-used landfills and excessive litter, gave communities a new mandate in maintaining the waste of their population. Re-using products or creating useful byproducts from waste offered application of this new ethic while also offering new opportunity for economic profit and development.

Non-profit recycling centers began opening around the country, followed by municipal recycling programs. Today, most U.S. communities have such programs. A typical program asks people to separate their recyclables from their trash before placing them at the curb for collection. To encourage recycling, some communities also charge residents for the quantity of trash put out for collection. The most commonly recycled household items are paper and cardboard; metal, glass, and plastic containers and packaging; and yard waste. Recycling the recovered materials is simple for metals and glass; they can be melted down, reformed, and reused. Yard waste can be composted with little or no equipment. Paper, the most important recycled material, must be mixed with water, and sometimes de-inked, to form a pulp that can be used in papermaking. Plastics recycling requires an expensive process of separation of different resins.

In the US, plastics are all numerically coded according to type, including: polyethylene terphthalate (PETE or PET; 1) an example of these plastics are virtually all soft drink bottles, high density polyethylene (HDPE; 2) an example would be detergent bottles, polyvinyl chloride (PVC; 3), sometimes used for water or oil bottles but now rare in food beverage packaging, due to concerns about its environmental hazards; low density polyethylene (LDPE; 4) often used for plastic bags, polypropylene (PP; 5) examples are some yogurt containers and bottle caps, and polystyrene (PS; 6) used to make Styrofoam containers. Number 7 seen on some packaging, refers to all plastics other than these six. It is not a single plastic material.
Lessons are being learned - somewhere - if not in Oklahoma. Because of the horrendous growth of the "plastic garbage island" in the North Pacific, grown 100-fold in the past 40 years, several Californian city authorities have placed a ban on the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. That's a start! The use of styrofoam/plastic cups, cutlery and plates in motels and fast-food places ought to be next on the list.

Photograph from ambiental.

The huge patch (some say the size of Texas, but calculation is difficult because much of the broken down material remains below the surface) of 80% plastic garbage has been created by waste swept into the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone by circulating ocean currents known as a gyre. Eventually the plastics are broken down by wind and waves and become small particles which will, someday, enter the food chain.
"Your descendants shall gather your fruits." ~ Virgil
(Note: I'd add to Virgil's ancient wisdom, and no doubt it was implied anyway: "whether the fruits be nourishing or poisoned is up to you.")


Anonymous said...

GP: My yesterday`s comment on McDonalds went lost, courtesy Google, I guess. The gist was that McDo and similar outfits are masters of `Volksverdummung` (make the consuming public even dummer than they are). And masters of plastic cutlery and plates and other garbage, not least to mention their unhealthy food!

If your purpose T. is to denounce, I am with you all the way. Crock`s Uranus in Sagittarius certainly helped him (and his shareholders) to spread their lucrative subculture around the world. And much of it ending in the oceans or hanging 2-3 metres high on the trees along the river banks, as sadly we have to see here in Brazil.

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~
Sorry your comment went astray - Blogger, Google, or both, or some other element has been playing up recently. Statcounter went awry and the blog wouldn't load properly for a couple of days - so your comment probably got lost in the mix.
Things seem to have returned to normal now.

Re McD and Kroc - I wasn't out to denounce them exactly, just thought their story was interesting, if not admirable health and ecology-wise.
McD's is just one of thousands of fast food and other outlets damaging health and ecology, so to singe them out would be grossly unfair.....they are just the biggest and most widely spread I suppose.

When the whole thing started the dangers weren't apparent as they have now become - as in smoking, back in the day. So to be too hard on people like Ray Kroc is a tad unfair in my opinion.
We was a businessman simply that.

The use of plastics by all fast food outlets, motels, supermarkets and stores will have to stop at some point. And recycling of necessary plastics and other items will need to be mandated.
I cannot understand why this hasn't been mandated already.

Mad, mad world.

James Higham said...

Surely the state or city or federal government could subsidise something as important as this, so that profit need not be paramount?

Not if you believe government should butt out of our lives.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~~ I don't believe government should butt out of our lives - far from it. Libertarianism and small government is not my idea of logic for a system of government in the world we now inhabit.

People and corporations will not do the right thing without being forced by mandate. They are either too greedy, too careless or too ignorant to carry out the kind of changes needed to sort out, among other things, degradation of our environment.

I want government doing more not less - but it has to be the right kind of government - not one owned lock stock and loonybin by THEM and the 1%.

R J Adams said...

Not much recycling going on up here in Michigan's U.P.. You'd think rural folk would be more appreciative of the countryside and its preservation. Last week someone dumped four old car tires in a pond on our land. It's only ten minutes away from the local tip, where they'd have been accepted free of charge. It's not just the corporations that need legislation, it's people, too.

Wisewebwoman said...

1 out of a 100 is what the local grocery store tells me when I ask how many bring their own grocery bags.
And we're on an island!!
and I photograph living room sets and the ubiqitous tires on the pristine beach, along with hot water tanks and plastic everythings.
We deserve annihilation.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ Really? I thought the northern states were, on the whole more enlightened on this.

Legislation is sorely needed, I agree for both corps and people - but then SCOTUS says corps are people so......

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Sad state of affairs. I want supermarkets to go back to using those brown paper sacks exclusively - they were far more common even 8 years ago when I first arrived here.

Walmart does have recycling bins for plastic bags - so that's a rare gold star (well brass star maybe) for them.

We, or those who come after, will pay for it all - that's the worst of it.

anyjazz said...

I must quote what the man at the late Power Shop recycling center said to me when I expressed disbelief at their closing. He said, "Someday, recycling is ALL we'll be doing."

Rather haunting, don't you think?

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Haunting indeed!

As I've remarked to you sometimes when we've discovered a really junky junk store filled to the gills with "stuff", out in the middle of nowhere, the people who run shops like that will one day be the equivalent of today's 1% - they'll be the ones with lots of essential stuff. Always reminds me of scenes in the movie Mad Max (minus Mel Gibson of course, don't ever wish to be reminded of him).

Unknown said...

While we do have recycling in the UK, Twilight, it has already contaminated things used in our food supply. This year I have found loads of ground up plastic in the bags of multi-purpose compost I have bought to top up my own garden compost which isn't enough for my veggie patch.

I did complain to the manufacturer and despite being contacted by the Technical Manager I've heard nothing further. Then saw a representative of the firm on TV saying that it was our own fault for not recycling properly. What they mean is that the cost is too high for them to sort out the waste.

Trading Standards actually consider this stuff including hard plastics and even a pink plastic jewellery bead to be biodegradable and it is legal under EU regulations. So Government (EU in this case) is certainly not helping with the contamination of our soil. It's clearly not just the oceans that are affected by this.

I refuse to put it into my soil so will only use in pots but then I have to decide how to dispose of it or maybe sieve it to remove as much of it as possible.

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~ Dang! That's bad news, Rossa. I was confident the UK/EU had moved on in this.

"Cost too high" again.....yeah yeah yeah - and it'll be way too high when they realise, too late, what kind of poisoned world they've left for their grandkids and great grandkids. :-(