Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trash Talk

I think about trash a lot.

Where it goes, what it could become, what happens to it in landfills, how much of it am I responsible for, people's habits around it, etc.  When Precisely and I were traveling through Italy in March, he was taking pictures of the architecture, the art, the food, the people we saw.  Then we'd walk by a grouping of trash cans and recycling cans in a train station, and that's when I would stop and say, "Hey, can you get a picture of that?"

My job is making me so weird.

The thing that is becoming more and more evident to me though is how little we know about waste.  I am blessed to live in a country, where I empty my garbage cans once a week, take the bags to the curb, and then they are picked up and disposed of.

I don't know where those bags go.

I try to do my part as a good person and recycle, but I don't know where that goes either.

And its becoming more and more clear, the more involved I become in the recycling industry, that most of us don't.  In fact, this past weekend while at a conference, I began asking people if they knew where their trash went.  No one did.

This wouldn't be a problem if waste was treated like a resource, products were manufactured with a closed loop system in mind, and goods didn't come in packaging that requires implements of destruction to open.

But it's not, they don't, and they do.

And because we don't have to think about it, we have a fairly huge problem on our hands.  Our countries greatest export right now is trash.  We spend billions of dollars to deal with our waste. And if you don't have billions to spend on that management, things become ugly very quickly.

I get that trash isn't sexy.  But it's pretty cool when you start looking at what can be done with it.  Trash is a resource, we should treat it as such.  And I'm not just saying this from a green do-gooder soap box. It makes for viable business. I've seen the numbers. It works.

So, I think that trash is something we should talk about. It's way more interesting than the weather. And if we start talking about it, maybe we'll become a bit more aware of its potential, and maybe we'll be a bit more mindful of what we do with it beyond sending it to a landfill.

This weekend, the Three Rivers Arts Festival kicks off in Pittsburgh. I'm going on Sunday afternoon, but not for the art.  I'll be helping to sort through the trash collected, as part of a waste audit being conducted for the festival.  

My job is making me seriously weird.

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