Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trash as water

Water, untamed, travels along the path of least resistance. Rivers flow downhill, with the helping hand of gravity, spilling eventually into reservoirs, our lakes, seas and oceans.

While talking to Laura, Laura, Sherri and Katherine the other day, we talked a bit about the CNBC documentary Trash Inc.: The Secret Life of Garbage, from which I summarised a few posts ago. We talked about so-called "traveling trash," trash that is whisked away to somewhere else, taken out of sight, out of mind. New York City's trash travels to Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, and New Jersey. When you are on the highway, many of the eighteen-wheeler trucks are actually just full of garbage. There seem to be parallels between the flow of water, and the flow of trash. If it gets too expensive for some reason to dump trash in one region (a more resistive path), a cheaper place (less resistive) is where the trash flows to - some place poor, most likely. It seems like with instances like the Trafigura case (when petrochemical wastes were dumped in Abidjan), this is exactly what is going on. That is what our current economic philosophies are based on - cheap labour, work and materials flowing to places with potentially more lax social and environmental laws and regulations, to satisfy those of us who don't want to know what it takes to live the lives we choose for ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. Japan has some of the most stringent policies on product end-of-life that I know of, due to their high population, small land area, and lack of places to put trash. So it seems, on some level, they are starting to face their reality.

    And yet! if you buy a few items in a store, they will often wrap each one in tissue paper before putting them all into a bag.

    So even in the face of a tsunami of waste, many people continue life-as-usual. How do we change people's perceptions, desires, habits, etc.?