Garbage in, garbage out
Garbage. Put it in the garbage can and someone will take it away. Done. Right? For too many of us, this thought holds true. But because the garbage is no longer visible doesn’t mean it’s vanished into thin air. If all goes according to plan, the garbage ends up in a landfill. But landfills contribute to habitat destruction, and pollute the soil, groundwater and air. When all does not go according to plan, garbage ends up in the ocean, killing and harming sea animals and other beings (including humans) that depend on the ocean for habitat and food. Right now, as you are reading this article, our garbage – yours and mine – is endangering animal, plant and human lives. Life forms from as far as the North Pole, to the middle of the sea, to the very neighbourhood you live in, right down to you (yes, you!) are all affected, and that is why our collective role in the stewardship of garbage does not just end at the garbage can. To decrease the destructive impact our garbage has on the planet and its inhabitants, an impact that many of us do not see with our own eyes yet continues to exist long after we’ve “thrown it out”, we can do something very simple. We can simply reduce the amount of garbage we create in the first place.
The last ‘R’ is Recycle
Our family’s weekly garbage amount has consistently been down to a shopping bag size or smaller for as long as my husband and I have been married. We’ve chosen for years to compost in our backyard, and chosen to recycle everything that local recyclers would accept. I even had my husband store Styrofoam in the attic, instead of tossing it, for the day that I knew would eventually come: the day our recycling facility accepted Styrofoam materials, including meat trays, take-out containers and packaging. Until that day came, we made a conscious choice to reduce our purchases which came packaged with Styrofoam. For us, this mostly meant avoiding meat in Styrofoam trays and certain take-out foods. However, some amount of Styrofoam still managed to find its way to us, and into the attic it would go. We still continue today to make Styrofoam-free consumer choices in an effort to reduce our waste.
Live in the present, for the Future
Even now, with two young children, we still do not produce much more garbage, and we often question how other similar-sized households can produce two overflowing cans of garbage every week. Having local progressive recycling facilities greatly helps reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill, and now with our Green Cart program, all food scraps that we couldn’t compost in our backyard (due to attracting rodents) can now be picked up weekly at the curb and taken to a composting facility. And now that the city where I live has, at long last, reduced garbage pick-up from weekly to bi-weekly, residents are now forced to participate in the recycling and Green Cart programs when they were choosing not to before. The city has also begun charging more fees for those who want to use a large garbage cart and less for those who want a small cart. Hopefully money will be an additional incentive for some people to create as little garbage as possible.
Garbage out of sight does not mean garbage out of mind. Let’s be mindful of the impact our garbage has, and make better choices to reduce the amount of garbage we create… because we must.