Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Step.....The Dump

The Dump or Landfill is a place where garbage is supposed to go. Right?

We live in an age where anything can be defined as garbage. We throw away the fast food restaurant toy that has been in the car too long. The stack of magazines in the garage, the old dishes cluttering the cupboards, all of it is considered trash. 

Most communities have a special day in the spring when you can literally throw anything away. Spring Pick Up, or Spring Curb Side is what we call it. It is an attempt to clean up the city and corresponds with our internal drive to spring clean and purge. Just leave anything on the curb and your local sanitation engineer will come pick it up at no extra cost! Amazing huh. In our community this happens in April just before tourist season starts.

The predicament? Our population is growing rapidly. According to the US census, America’s population grew 9.7 % from 2000 to 2010. Multiply that number by how much garbage we produce and that is a big problem. We also produce garbage for a longer period of time. We are living longer. There is a 13% increase in people over the age of 65 since 2000. So, there are more of us, living longer, which equates to more trash. We just can’t keep up with our old habits.

It is easy to put things on the curb or throw things away into a dumpster and watch while a big truck comes and gobbles it up, we never see it again. Out of sight, out of mind. Phew!

I wish the large trucks that gobbled up trash could convert the waste into the fuel required to drive up and down the city streets. Wouldn't that be great! But no, instead they drive back to the local landfill and regurgitate it into a pile of guck. Typically when the guck gets to be too much they stir it up with glass, cover it with gravel and start all over again terracing up large mountains of refuse. 

That is why I think everyone should go check out his or her local landfill, before the purging begins. Go see where the garbage goes.  Go see what they do with it. Go see what people throw away. It will shock and amaze you!

The view from the Ketcikan Dump

This is our landfill. We visited the Ketchikan dump prior to our purge. It was my first step. Why? I wanted to be reminded of accountability and responsibility.  I want to redefine garbage.

So often I have started out a purge with good intentions that just... fall short. I promise myself I will post unwanted items in the classifieds or on e-bay, that I will have a garage sale, that I will donate to Salvation Army, or second hand stores. But this is an arduous process. It takes up too much space, too much time. I need to 'hurry up' because I am expecting company, or I just get overwhelmed, and emotionally fatigued by it all. Sometimes,  (I hate to admit it) my unwanted items end up in the dump. The weight is lifted though. Immediately it's over, and it’s all gone. Oh what a wonderful feeling to rid myself of crap and clutter!

But we haven’t gotten rid of it. It does not just disappear. It just changes locations, and becomes a bigger problem, a community problem.

But when there is no accountability for the trash there is no responsibility for the purchases.  The voids we create with our purge make room for more stuff. They get filled up again so quickly. The goal, to avoid this vicious cycle.

My daughter thought her dolly would have liked this

This toilet is in better shape than mine

I stood there with my daughter and looked at all of the things people got tired of looking at; all of the ‘things’ people gave up on and threw away. There was construction material, pallets of unopened bags of plaster, and nails. There was baby bathtubs, dolls, pots, pans and silverware.  I recognized myself in the heap. Like items were in the piles at home ready to be disposed of. It was so sad. I found it completely inspirational. I don't want to contribute to this. My predicament to find appropriate homes for these misfit things.

Purging doesn't just relieve us of possessions but should remind us of the responsibility of ownership. We must take the time, make the effort, and pay the cost to take care of the items we no longer want. The act of purging, should teach us a lesson. We will finally comprehend the enormous responsibility of being a consumer in America. 

All of our recycled glass is mixed in to help break down the plastics

The dump should be a sacred place reserved for all things deemed unusable, all things that can not be sold, or given away, all things that can not be reused, recycled or composted. The Dump should not be a shelter or a haven for...exasperated consumers. 

I will not mindlessly throw things away. I will be mind full of what I am consuming and how I will dispose of it when I am done. I will pay attention to what I need. I will be connected to the future. Hopefully this process will help me to resist the refilling of those empty spaces.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh...no joke. I was amazed (shocked) at all the "garbage" on the street last week for pick up!! Appliances, furniture, baby items...so many usable or upcycle-able things that will go straight to the trash.