Daddy, Where Does Garbage Go?

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?”




31 thoughts on “Daddy, Where Does Garbage Go?

  1. I dislike living in mountains of garbage as much as the next person, but this kind of rant is one of my pet peeves.

    As a kid, I was taught environmental and social justice concerns in my church. Ordinary sins, I could repent of and be forgiven. But there was no forgiveness for the sin of being born in the US of A, the wealthiest and most spoiled nation in the world. Every morning that I got up and went on living, I re-offended.

    In sixth grade, I went to a special environmental-focus school where I spent a year learning outdoor skills and conservation. We were told that the Amazon jungle was disappearing so fast that … well, it definitely shouldn’t be there still, if they were right.

    You simply cannot condemn people for living a certain lifestyle unless they have a viable alternative. The only way to avoid producing the kinds of garbage you mention is to go full Laura Ingalls and move out to the wilderness and a completely self-sufficient lifestyle. Most of us would die if we tried to do this cold turkey. Unless we bought a lot of expensive equipment first, which also comes in its own packaging. Also, anybody who actually tries this is generally viewed as a nut.

    I am a closet Luddite. I would like our lifestyle to be much more self-sufficient and sustainable. However, if you want to life that lifestyle, you almost have to be raised in it, or you won’t have the skills and knowledge. And even subsistence farmers produce sewage, food waste, animal waste, dirty diapers. Being told “don’t produce any garbage” at some point feels like being told “Don’t eat, don’t poop, don’t have a body.” Don’t be human.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the most spiritual times of my life was when I took a 5-day hike in the wilderness. Limited gear and limited waste. Some of my gear was made offshore, presumedly. There was some waste in the form of packaging for our food. It wasn’t perfect, but if I lived that way for a whole year it might fill three to five garbage bags. I’m not going to head into the wilderness with the pack on my back just yet though…
      What I really object to is the blatant waste: St.Paddy’s day hats that my folks buy at the dollar store to be used once, then thrown away. Glow sticks that the neighborhood ladies give to the kids on long weekends – used for four hours, completely unrecyclable, and then tossed in the landfill.
      Cruise ships dumping their garbage in the ocean is so heinous because they are trading the future of oceanic life for cost-savings .
      Zero garbage may be unrealistic at this time, but I think we can get way closer to zero than we are now, that’s all.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hear you.

        I once lived, in month-long stints, in a fairly remote part of Asia. I would say the “4 to 5 bags a year” is a little bit of a low estimate for what you would produce, but then, we weren’t living on game. Maybe you were. Anyway, at that time, I was very aware of every bit of our garbage, because there was no way to get rid of it. We had stuff like tuna cans, little plastic packets of MSG, etc. … biodegradable stuff got fed to the pig, but that stuff, you couldn’t even burn it. Bad for the trees. I wouldn’t say I felt “spiritual” living like that, because I was hyper-aware of the ways our lifestyle differed from that of our host family. Also, I was hungry most of the time. 🙂

        I also feel your pain about disposable toys and stuff like that. As a mom, people tend to give my kids stuff, and then they get attached to it and don’t want it thrown away, even if it’s what I would call garbage.

        I have sometimes thought that I wish shampoo would be sold in bulk dispensers, sort of like lentils are at co-ops. Then we could all bring our own reusable containers and not produce so many plastic bottles. Maybe there is some kind of sanitation law against that, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Recycling is definitely bullshit. There was something on our UK news a few months ago about how monstrous amounts of our “recycling” was shipped abroad and it now cluttering up some other country’s ocean(s). We also used to sell card and paper recycling to China but (as I believe it) they basically had enough and stopped taking it.

    It makes encouraging recycling as a concept completely redundant. Also, isn’t it better for the country hosting the recycling to re-use it themselves for their OWN good? An out-there concept I know…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes!

      I always assumed that when I recycled something, it was actually getting re-processed and re-used somewhere at least in my own country, if not my own city. Recently, someone told me that we had been selling (!) it (to China?), but they got sick of it because we weren’t rinsing it thoroughly enough or something. So now, a dedicated recycling truck comes, picks up all my carefully sorted recycling, and takes it away to where it’s … burned? Can that really be true? Gosh, I hope it’s an urban legend!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. You got it. The municipality doing the “recycling” needs a buyer for the recycled materials. If they don’t have one the material gets warehoused or trashed.

      Maybe if a product is being sold, the company selling it should have to deal with all the by-product…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Recycling is done only at the home level. Once the trash is picked up, it is dumped in the same pile to be transported somewhere, anywhere. Many countries are offered bribes to “take” the trash from wealthy nations. Just ask Somalia about the consequences of such deals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just looked at some pictures of Somalian beaches full of garbage. So horrible. Reminds me of the pictures of Rio de Janeiro’s waterways that became mainstream news for a brief moment as they prepared to host the Olympics.


  4. Excellent post. I try to re-use and or recycle everything I can. I’d definitely have a compost pile if I was alive. Many things compost…even human hair & coffee if you have worms.

    We have a local market that provides organic produce from local farmers. We have farmers markets. I’m always shocked when I get a pastry item in a plastic container that can’t be recycled. Gee. I thought these intellectuals out of UNC were the leaders in cleaning up the environment. The county I live in is the most recycling-inclined county in the whole state…so I’m told. But, the local market uses non-recyclable items?

    I can’t believe that styrofoam still exists.

    The ocean has always been a dumping ground. Not likely to change. There are some Navy ships off the coast of California that are still radioactive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.
      I have a couple of bins in the house so we can compost all year long. They are full of red wigglers. They can digest compost pretty quickly.

      Styrofoam, yeah… I remember when it was a big deal when McDonald’s got rid of those containers. I think the hotcakes still come this way.

      Lots of junk in the ocean (and lakes). Lots of helicopters under water near Saigon.


    1. That’s great that you take transit.

      Our car hardly leaves to driveway unless we’re going a long distance.

      For long distance we were supposed to get a high speed rail line from Windsor to Toronto, but the premier of our province just cancelled that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve got a fifteen year old truck that I drive once a week to pick up groceries. A few years ago, my car died and I decided to see how long I could go without a car. Turned out to be six years…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My late dad had Alzheimer’s and would take his Dodge truck out at night and forget where he was, who he was and why he was where he was. My mother couldn’t get him to get rid of it, so she told him I needed it. I didn’t really but it worked. He gave it up immediately. And, I got to drive from Lubbock to Washington, DC in it.

        It broke down in Missouri…

        Liked by 1 person

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