I know when most people come across someone who is passionate about recycling or the environment, their initial thoughts are something along the lines of, “Oh yeah hippie, go ahead and recycle, you’re not going to make a difference.” or, “Get over yourself, you’re not better than me because you recycle.” I can assure you that nobody who is passionate about recycling is doing it to be different or because they enjoy some sense of superiority from it. Most people just aren’t aware of the ways that it benefits the world, or they don’t think that they couldn’t possibly cause the suffering of wildlife and people thousands of miles away from them, which is entirely not true. Countless marine animals end up like this one…
Think about this for a second. In some form or another, whether burned or degraded, every piece of plastic that has ever been created is still in existence. When we throw things away, they don’t just “go away.” They go somewhere else and become some other culture or species’ problem.
If you need convincing, watch this video and tell me why we still use so much DAMN PLASTIC and refuse to dispose of it properly! This isn’t just some lone, rare circumstance, this happens all around the world because people can’t stand the thought of changing their routine or sacrificing a little “convenience” for the sake of other living beings. Most people have seen the video of the Sea Turtle with the drinking straw lodged up its nose, but if not, here it is. This is yet another way in which trash that is improperly disposed of can negatively impact our marine animals and ecosystems. I know its much easier to think that these are rare occurrences that don’t constitute a radical change in your plastic consumption or daily routine, but unfortunately they are very common. Each year about 100,000 marine animals and about 1 million sea birds die from plastic ingestion.
The issues with landfills is that once the trash starts to decompose, it produces excessive amounts of methane and contributes more toxins in our increasingly toxic environment. Researchers in Italy conducted a 16 year study from 1996-2012 with 242,409 people and found that individuals (especially children) that live within a 3 mile radius of a landfill were found to have an increased risk of respiratory disease and death from lung cancer. Some facilities do capture the methane and convert it in to useable energy, but there are countless others that do not. Even so, the enormous energy costs to create and send trash to the landfill in the first place is not balanced out or negated by the fact that some landfills can convert a small amount of the toxins emitted to a useable form. This is not a sustainable alternative to reducing your waste contribution or recycling it.
The problem with incinerators is that they release incredibly toxic dioxins into the air, water, and consequently, infect the local agriculture which in turn enters our bodies through their consumption. While most facilities do filter and clean the vapors that are emitted through the stacks, they are not required to capture the entirety of it. Also, incinerators only partially destroy the waste that enters the system because once the incineration process is finished, what’s left is a still toxic “ash” that has to be disposed of in landfills.
When plastics break down they don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade and turn into thousands of tiny porous pieces of plastic called “nurdles.” This new porous texture acts like a chemical trap and essentially turns the plastic into a “toxic sponge.” Assuming that the litter is plastic, it then begins its ever so slow break down process and since it is now small enough for local critters to eat, they will eventually confuse these nurdles for food until their digestive system has become so backed up that they slowly and painfully starve to death.
All people have a moral obligation to minimize the amount of human caused suffering in this world and recycling is a simple way that you can make that change. Recycling is incredibly easy and even if you can’t or don’t want to commit 100% to a lifestyle in which you recycle everything you can, compost, and refuse to buy plastic products, you can still make a difference by making small changes and doing one thing at a time, little by little. If you just made the decision to start with eliminating plastic water bottles from your grocery list, you would be doing the ocean, wildlife, and cultures around the world a huge service! Check out my post, “Getting Started With Recycling” when you get a chance and I’ll show you just how easy it is to get started!