I went to the tip for the first time today. Not just the first time to this particular tip, but the first time to a tip ever. I loaded up the 4WD with assorted rubbish and building waste.
I paid my six bucks at the gate and drove on up to the tip face. It wasn’t hard to find, you just had to follow the circling seagulls.
I unloaded the car, and drove away, trash-less. But I was all too aware that my trash, far from disappearing, was still very much around. I had just relocated it.
One of the really good things about living without electricity, water, and things like rubbish collections, is that you start to notice quite acutely what you use and what you throw away. There’s nothing like carting your water in heavy 20L containers up and down muddy tracks to make you careful about how you use that water. And the sheer cost of running a generator means the lights don’t go on in the cottage unless they really need to.
In our modern, Western society, if we no longer have a use for something, we put it in a rubbish bin. We may put a bit of effort into wheeling the council bin out of the verge, or in my case taking a trailer load to the tip, but after that it’s someone else’s problem.
Except it’s not, really, is it? My visit to the tip got me thinking about another rubbish dump I’ve heard about, one that is the world’s biggest. Floating in the ocean off the Hawaiian archipelago is something called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a giant, floating garbage dump of plastic rubbish that mostly originated on land, and is said to be twice the size of Texas. It’s estimated to kill a million seabirds a year, who die from ingesting the plastic or getting fatally tangled in it. It’s just too hard and too expensive to clean it up, apparently (despite the valiant efforts Hawaiian locals and conservationists who are cleaning up beaches metres deep in rubbish even as the tides deposit more).
So apparently the solution is to not make so much plastic in the first place, or to recycle the plastic we do have, but how is that happening, exactly? Because when I look around me, I see plastic everywhere in my society – bottled water, packaging, furniture, computers – and far from seeing a drive to reduce, I see marketing madness encouraging us to all consume more, more, more. Australia can’t even get it together to pass legislation banning plastic bags, for Christ’s sake.
I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I do know that, as a global community, we all need to be more aware of what we consume and how it gets disposed of. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a myth. On this finite planet, with its exponentially increasing human population pursuing exponentially increasing needs and wants, one thing’s for sure. There is no such thing as a rubbish dump, or a tip, or any place where it’s possible to ‘dispose’ of waste. It’s all the same world, it’s all our backyard, and whatever we ‘throw away’ we’ll be living with for a long, long time to come.