Scary Facts About Recycling

 

As someone who checked plastic for the recycle symbol including the # to be certain my collector accepted that particular plastic and washed away food waste, I was dismayed to learn from the latest issue of Sierra Club magazine,  I might have been contributing to plastic being dumped in the ocean. I had blamed cruise ships and careless fishermen. Now I learn with China’s rejection of our products intended for recycling — first by rejecting unclean waste, and now altogether — that they have been routinely dumping the unclean waste into our oceans. We turned to Malaysia, which soon rejected the waste for similar reasons. In fact grocery bags, yogurt containers, Styrofoam, and clamshells are supposed to be recycled, but they almost never are. Plastic bags, soda straws, plastic wrap, and bottle caps are unrecyclable junk. Somewhere I read not to try to recycle anything smaller than a credit card.

Sometimes the ocean rejects what’s dumped into it and spits it back out.

Shredded paper confuses recycling equipment. Further, all undesirable plastic contaminates bales of genuine recyclables. The plastic would have been better off in a landfill. It should be noted that China is now producing more of its own plastic and subsequently trade war or not, they won’t be wanting our waste.

 

 

Fortunately, only the less desirable half of our recycling had been shipped overseas. Edward Humes, the author of the Sierra Club article sees China’s rejection as a wakeup call to an opportunity for our country to do better: improved recycling facilities and factories, more education of the public, clearer directions to the public on what is recyclable in their communities, deposits on plastic bottles, and less use of single use plastic. Places where recyclables are separated before they reach the curb yield the cleanest and most desirable material for recycling. We need to emphasize the first two of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and not depend on others to sort out our “when in doubts.”

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Are Malthus’s Dire Predictions About Human Civilization Coming True?

 

Will this become the human condition?

I don’t know if the 18th century Malthus is still mentioned in schools as someone who theorized that an increased food supply encouraged population growth and predicted the forces behind population increase were larger than those behind increases in food production. Of course, the conclusion is that humans are unsustainable on Earth.

Humans, indeed, are the ultimate consumers of Earth’s resources. We not only consume food—overfishing our oceans—we consume clean water, clean air, and energy.

Consider the Ogallala aquifer in the Midwest. If spread across the U.S. the aquifer would cover all 50 states with 1.5 feet of water

  • If drained, it would take more than 6,000 years to refill naturally
  • More than 90 percent of the water pumped is used to irrigate crops
  • $20 billion a year in food and fiber depend on the aquifer

Yet, one Kansas study estimates the aquifer will run dry in 50 years.

Fossil fuel supplies are limited, and their production consumes clean air and  water.

In short we are consuming Earth’s resources, and population growth contributes to the depletion.

It is not only about survival, it is about life as we know it. Imagine life without furnaces, air conditioning, convenient transportation,  and all of our de-vices for communication and entertainment.

My point is not to spread doom and gloom, but to increase our supply of awareness. I believe that proper long-term planning and science can not only help us survive, but maintain and even improve our health and lifestyle. It is science that has created fruits and vegetables with longer shelf lives and more essential nutrients, is experimenting with creating meat in laboratories, and more.

Further, it is science, which can save our future as it has in the past, but today the challenge is greater because we consume more and more different kinds of resources.  I am delighted to see compostable plastic-like bags, advances in medical science, discovery of caterpillars who will eat plastic bags that make their way into our oceans , efforts to get carbon out of the air, electric cars, renewable energy such as solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hydro-electricity, and two-year olds if suitably harnessed.Often the first of new inventions is not the best, but gets better.

One of my concerns is an anti-scientific attitude in this country, and I don’t know its basis. Is it because scientists are warning us and we don’t like the message so we want to strangle the messenger? Is it because we only care about the here and now? Or because we only care about our own welfare?

Believe it or not:  a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) administrator testified before Congress re the need for continued adequate funding. When she mentioned the importance of weather forecasting, like a child thinking eggs don’t come from chickens but from grocery stores, one unnamed congress creature said, “Oh, if I want to know what the weather will be, I turn on TV.”

We can’t afford as a society to be ignorant of what faces us. Individual human beings need more than ever to be educated  not only to be employed  but  contribute to the preservation of our common wealth and how to make it work for us for the common good.

End of sermon.