Friday, April 22, 2011

The Twelfth of Never

Of all the tragedies resulting from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, perhaps the most enduring--other than loss of lives--is garbage.  All kinds of garbage.  My mind can hardly take it all in....imagine for a moment, all the things--stuff-- of households, businesses, manufacturing...all strewn over the landscape of an island in the Pacific Ocean... Not to mention the radiation?  Where will it wind up?  IS there such a thing as "clean-up" or "breakdown" of the incredible destruction now blighting life itself in this tiny country?  

What can be done about Japan's garbage problem?   When it rains in northeastern Japan, it's raining through the garbage...and going where?  Where, even after scraping up the trash into mounds to be hauled somewhere, where can it be moved TO and what lingers in the soil?  The fishing industry in that part of the world?  How will it be affected?  How can this relatively small piece of land cope with the refuse of a natural disaster of this magnitude?  

These questions and more haunt me as I plant my new blackberries and enjoy my asparagus...When is the "industrialized" world going to realize the importance of the need for serious re-thinking of our "waste?"   I honestly believe we are beyond "recycling."  We are red-lining on simply having too much stuff.  We don't need more stuff.  But that's anti-consumerism, anti-free enterprise, anti-capitalism, right?  RIGHT!  in capital letters. 

And just to remind you, on this Earth Day, here's the time it takes for each piece of trash to so-called "break down:" (the Twelfth of Never...)

Glass bottle 1 million years

Monofilament fishing line: 600 years

Plastic beverage bottles: 450 years

Disposable diapers: 450 years

Aluminum can: 80-200 years

Boot sole: 50-80 years

Styrofoam cup: 50 years

Tin can: 50 years

Leather: 50 years

Nylon fabric: 30-40 years

Plastic film canister: 20-30 years

Plastic bag: 10-20 years (???)

Cigarette filter: 1-5 years

Wool sock: 1-5 years

Plywood: 1-3 years

Waxed milk carton: 3 months

Apple core: 2 months

Newspaper: 6 weeks

Orange or banana peel : 2-5 weeks

Paper towel: 2-4 weeks


  1. Oh, so scary. We all have to work a bit harder.

  2. Elora, the battle ultimately will be won at the ballot box and at the cash register. No, I don't believe we're beyond recycling; we've barely scratched the surface there. But you're right, recycling is not a sufficient offset to unbridled consumerism. There is no solution that can be reduced to a bumper sticker slogan, but we each must strive constantly to gently educate our selves, our neighbors, our elected officials, and the officers of all those corporations that we hold stock in through our 401(k)s. It has been 38 years since Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring," and we've come a long way. But if we continue to elect politicians who are anti-environment and continue to buy products that are anti-environment, those gains can be erased in a much shorter time. -Jim

  3. Elora -- Two issues are killing life: EXCESS POPULATION AND CONSUMERISM! The ballot box is for politicians and they aren't doing anything to stop this mess. ONLY the individual can act to stop it -- one person at a time- giving up what they believe they have to have. They have the power but are not using it. -- barbara

  4. We do, don't we NCMW...I remember a cartoon that came out during the Viet Nam war showing a bearded "hippie" (I think we were "hippies!") carrying a sign that read "Stop the War." Marching right behind was a soldier carrying another sign. It read, "How?" And that's about the way I feel. Where do we begin, Wayfarin' Stranger? That's what I meant by saying we are beyond recycling! Remember the Sunday school song, Little drops of water, Little grains of sand, Make the might ocean, And the pleasant land..?" We're sinking faster than ever and we can't seem to catch up. I sometimes feel we're all in quicksand. The trash problem is simply overwhelming. And, you're right, Barbara...but, of course, funding was just cut to Planned parenthood and all such organizations in the Republican budget at the eleventh hour of Congress's theatrics. What a mess. Thanks all!

  5. Yep -- it does seem hopeless. Too many people -- some just wanting enough to survive, others requiring second, third, and fourth homes. We can do so little in our own little corner... but I'm going to keep trying.