Where does our garbage go?
Where is away?
We consume, we consume, we consume. We bring home our pretty new things wrapped in packaging that is thrown away. When our pretty new things are no longer pretty we throw them away too.
At home I feel more in control of my part in this cycle. We can compost, grow our own food, buy in bulk with our reusable bags, choose things with less or no packaging, make our own laundry soap, buy natural soap in bulk from a local soap maker, step off the consumer treadmill and buy second hand and a hundred other things that have become part of our everyday lifestyle. Reducing our garbage has been my ‘thing’ for the past few years. I’m passionate about it.
Here in Asia it’s a different story. I am having a hard time with all of the garbage we are producing but I am finding it difficult to reduce it. I don’t have access to a compost, products that I can buy and feel good about at home are not available here, and everything is incredibly over packaged. When I go to the market, if I am not fast enough to catch the sellers before they reach for the plastic, each type of fruit is put into its own plastic bag and then all the little bags go into a big one. Almost all the fruit and vegetables at the grocery store are pre-wrapped in plastic, even the bananas! We can’t drink the water out of the tap and so the bottled water that I would NEVER buy at home becomes a necessity here.
The road sides are filled with litter and the tropical rains push that litter into the waterways. The waterways push it into the ocean where it circles in the tides, gets washed up on beaches or joins all the other tonnes of garbage in the gyers.
This was what the beach at Nai Yang looked like the other day:
The tide had brought in a slew of garbage. The beach was still packed with tourists. On their way to the ocean people just stepped over the lines of debris the waves had carried in. I wondered how many people on the beach were truly disgusted and empowered to make changes in their lives and how many were hoping the next tide would wash the garbage back out so the beach would be pretty again.
We spent some time cleaning up about a thirty foot expanse. Mike borrowed some rakes from the nearby restaurant and I sorted through the piles he made, picking out what I could.
The problem with plastic pollution is that it does not biodegrade, it photodegrades. The sun breaks down the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. Those little pieces of plastic are mixing with the sand on our beaches, and becoming toxic food for our marine life.
By the next day the beach was clean again. The tide had swept away the evidence of our throw away society. Our oceans continue to be our dumping place and we will pay the consequence of our carelessness.
Asia is a hard place to be an environmentalist and that day at the beach empowered me to do better on our travels. We need to refuse the bag, shop at the local markets where things aren’t pre-packaged, buy large re-fillable water bottles and use them to re-fill our drinking size bottles, bring our own containers, and just generally be aware of waste. We have already been doing most of these things but I am determined to step our efforts up a notch. It is certainly not as easy as it is back home for us but every bit helps.