Garbage: Discarded or useless material
Canada dropped several tonnes of the stuff in a Manila port six years ago. Now the Philippines wants us to take it back. Or else. And I don’t blame them.
That’s an issue for Trudeau to figure out, but the real issue is the amount of garbage we, as Canadians, and as a species, generate.
In order to understand physical garbage, you have to understand human garbage.
Everyone is taught in grade one that nature is beautiful and we need to protect it. If we see a chip bag on the ground, that is very bad, and we ought to pick it up. Kids are taught about the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Very good. But like most things the school tries to teach our kids, it is all bullshit. We don’t tell the kids how large corporations are able to skirt the law or pay fines in order to dump their garbage wherever they want. We don’t tell them that big, beautiful cruise ship on the shiny brochure is actually just a plastic monster with a bad case of diarrhea, ready to open its rectum into its ocean toilet.
My kids receive a different kind of education at home. Unfortunately for me, sometimes it causes me to have to answer tough questions. Like on garbage day.
“Where does all this garbage go?”
When I was a kid I had the same question. My elders told me they burned it. Now I know they bury it.
Try telling this to a six-year-old. They can’t believe their ears.
“What happens to it once it’s buried?”
I might as well say, “That’s your problem kid.”
Which leads me to the first type of human garbage. Let’s call them the “Smoke ’em while you got ’em type.” They’re only going to be kicking around for eighty or so years (if they’re lucky). The Keurig pods they put six feet under before they go six feet under are none of their concern. Technology, ingenuity, and science brought on by the next generation will clear everything up. It’s way too late for them to change anything now, so they might as well ride out the rest of their lives in style. Some religious folks (I said some, not all) belong to this group. They believe in the end they will ascend up to heaven and God will make the earth a paradise again, so there is no sense wasting time worrying about the earth. They have plenty of other activities to waste time on, like sitting in uncomfortable pews singing from the red book or knocking on my front door.
The second kind of human garbage are the “I like it’s”. They know that buying something and then throwing it away shortly thereafter is bad for the environment, but “they like it” too much. They like to treat themselves. They love new gadgets. They can’t believe they used to extend their arm to take what used to be called a self-portrait (back before people started using baby-talk in common parlance). Why take a “selfie” the hard way when a kid in China can work for pennies in an unsafe environment, to build and package a waste-of-raw-materials into a styrofoam box, to be forklifted onto a ship, to be unloaded in North America, to be shipped on a truck, to be opened by them?
The third type of human garbage are the “It’s convenients”. Convenience is King. If an item can be packaged in a single serving to be consumed and thrown away, that’s a lot better than taking two minutes of effort to prepare it. This group is very susceptible to marketing. Usually, they didn’t even know they needed a particular throw-away product until they heard about it from their friendly neighbourhood advertisers.
The “won’t take no for an answers” are another common type. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the different types, this group would probably overlap with a few others. Basically, this type is your mother and father (or your inlaws). You’ve told them a hundred million fucking times that your kids have enough plastic shit and you don’t want to throw out any more dollar-store trash, but they won’t take no for an answer. It’s probably because they also belong to the “I like it’s” group. They can’t stand to spend a weekend with your kids, without “spoiling” them with dollar-store plastic. This behaviour is especially bad around the holidays. I mean, I don’t really want to throw out those tacky, green, plastic St.Paddy’s day hats, but I really don’t want to warehouse them in my living room either.
I saved the biggest, baddest type for last. The worst, if you will. Corporations are the worst type of human garbage. Fortunately for them, they’re not really humans, but some kind of weird entity that can pollute indiscriminately. It all depends on lobbying the right politicians and breaking the right laws in the right regions. They’re also the ones that make the most useless products and market them to the most useless sheep. The thing about the corporations is that they feed off of us like parasites. They can’t make a profit selling Keurigs, iPod-holding shower curtains, useless toys that teach kids to be a consumer, unhealthy sandwich meat, “Wellies”, etcetera, unless we let them.
Harsh words from a hypocrite. That’s right, just like the rest of us parasites, I am a member of some of the groups listed above. But I am trying. And the easier my government and the corporations make it for me to make an environmentally sound choice, the more likely I will make that choice.
That means coming up with a better way besides taxing us. Carbon tax and plastic-bag-at-the-grocery-store taxes aren’t going to clean up the planet. We need standard packaging that must be recyclable in the region where it is sold. Deposits on bottles and cans. No unnecessary products manufactured. If a cruise ship dumps crap in the ocean, even once, that cruise line no longer exists. Companies that dump oil in the ocean must clean it all up, even if it bankrupts them. Products must last a long time and have serviceable parts. A compost pit and a garden should be in every backyard. The list goes on and on…
One day I would love to be able to answer the question, “Where does garbage go?” with, “Garbage? What garbage?”