Notes on Garbology (Pessell)

This is yet another book that we have read this semester that made me feel ashamed in the amount of waste I generate on an annual basis. However, like many other books we’ve read, it also made me focused on improving my vigilance to issues like this and has inspired me to reduce the amount of trash that I create.

At first, when Humes mentioned the statistic of 102 tons of waste per person sounded crazy. How is there even that much stuff to create 102 tons of trash per person in America? However, I started to think of how my family throws away. We typically wait to take out the trash until it begins to overflow. Once we do, we replace the bag. I usually believe that it would take a while, at least several days, until we would need to replace it, but more times than not, the new bag is half filled by the end of the day. My family is relatively small, with my two parents, myself, and our dog. That is smaller than the average family size of two children, parents, and a pet or two. It would stand to reason that my family would produce less garbage than the average family, but I have found that we generate about the same amount as some of my peers who have larger families. Depending on who I ask, we produce a lot more. Now, that 102 tons of waste per year doesn’t sound so large.

One aspect that really interests me is the trade of garbage. This book is not the first text I have found about this aspect. In a previous class, we talked about families or entire communities that take in trash (particularly electronics) and sort through it for usable components that they then sell back to manufacturers who then recycle and reuse them. Similar to the example of the paper company that exports paper waste to China in the book, these garbage economies allow people to find livelihoods while doing things helpful for the envionment. I believe that we cannot rule out this practice as a way to reduce the amount of garbage wasting away in landfills. Now, if this were to become a more common aspect of the world economy, it would have to be highly regulated for safety. We would also have to implement stricter guidlines for seperating trash into categories. As we read in Chapter 3, this is not an easy command to have people follow. I continue to see people carelessly throw recyclable objects away in regular trash bins. Some thing should be done to mitigate those actions as well as harsher punishments to those who do not follow those rules. Finally, exporting and importing garbage for reuse cannot replace the idea of reducing the amount of trash we use. We cannot continue using materials that cannot be reused and steps should be taken on reducing overall trash production in an economically reasonable amount.

Environmental News

With the results of the American 2016 election, many envionmental agencies both in and outside of the government have concerns on how the new administration will handle progress towards lowering carbon emissions and investment in renewable energy sources. During the campaign, president-elect Donald Trump has said many times that he would defund the EPA and fight for coal and gas workers and now that he will have the power to do so, those in the scientific community and other world leaders have urged Trump to reconsider, including President Obama. This week, Obama has cautioned Trump and his supporters to move forward with the Paris Agreement, an international agreement aimed at decreasing carbon emissions. No country is required to participate, but the US has been a leader and has helped to persuade other countries to join the agreement. In the past, Trump has stated that he would not uphold the agreement. However, some politicians and scientists remain hopeful that the new President will listen to reason.

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