The world is not changed by your opinion but by your example. As humans we are creatures that are driven by greed and empathy primarily. We long for those that we don’t possess and don’t care much for those that we have. When an object is deemed ‘useless’ we simply dispose of it both from our homes and our minds. While we are aware of our responsibilities toward our waste and the effect that it produces on our Earth, we underestimate the magnitude of our negligence. You might think that a small wrapper thrown on the road is not going to have a profound effect, but that is the same thought that occurs to seven billion people. Some may shrug it off by the notion that the thought counts, but your thoughts don’t change this world for the better, your actions do.
The average person produces about 4.5 pounds per day, and most of it is recyclable items yet according to the United Nations we dump 2.12 billion tons of waste every year. The original concept of waste management was to simply burn waste or bury it. Either way it returned to nature, nourishing it and enabling humans to fertilize their farms and grow food. This cycle was useful until humans in accordance with their curiosity and creativity formed goods that were not a hundred per cent biodegradable. In the same way these products originate from an artificial production cycle, they require an artificial treatment at the end of their lifespans. The system of waste management too evolved but not on par with the amount and type of wastes that humans produced. The existing system displays a wide array of problems including low collection coverage, open dumping, improper disposal and inadequate recycling facilities. These are a select few from the myriad of cracks in our established system. When all our efforts to recycle fail we dump waste into landfills, and we don’t stop there. We dump it into oceans as well adversely affecting species both land and marine. In a few cases man has divulged in such folly to legally sanction pollution for instance in the 1970s, 17 million tons of industrial waste was legally dumped into the ocean. Waste is continued to be dumped into oceans irrespective of laws, and ranges from solid waste, plastics to nuclear waste.
Plastic constitutes the majority of artificial waste. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, only nine per cent has been recycled. The vast majority is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off as litter. Plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. Aluminum cans take 80-200 years in landfills to completely decompose. This is why simply segregating waste into their proper bins is not enough. Not every artificial waste is recyclable and not everything that can be recycled is recycled. That is why it is important to aim to reduce our waste rather than completely focusing on recycling. Recycling must be our last resort.
So the question arises how can we as citizens of the earth be more responsible for the waste that we produce? We can start with simpler steps such as simply reducing our waste. Before we buy an item we must ask if we are in actual need of it, is it worth the waste that it produces or the pollution that it is going to cause? If we ask this question repeatedly we realize that there are only a few items we are in dire need of. And with hope in humanity, I would like to believe that we can cut down our consumption levels and hence waste. Using cloth bags, saying no to disposable plastic containers are simple things that make a tremendous difference. We must try to reuse an item to its maximum potential even if it seems to be good for nothing. Very much like a child who was deemed to not be bright in the conventional way, finds purpose in an unexpected field. We don’t dispose of our children if they cease to be ‘useful’, we try to find a purpose for them. This is exactly what we must do with our waste as well. Waste can be segregated into biodegradable, recyclable and non-recyclable. Biodegradable waste can be used as manure for the little patch of greenery around our homes that are fast disappearing And when all these methods have failed then and only then we must recycle. This is because only a small fraction of recyclable waste is recycled and that requires infrastructure and construction of facilities which in turn creates more waste.
When someone asks us where we come from, we tie ourselves down to a specific place. Is that place your home or is the earth which created that place and provided you with nourishment your true home? You are not a product of any individual place but the earth herself, in that case doesn’t your responsibility lie towards the earth herself? Aim not to keep your surroundings clean, aim to keep the earth clean. If not for you then for posterity, for we are not guests of the earth, we are its protectors. Dead people receive more flowers than the living because regret is stronger than gratitude. There will be no use regretting the actions we have not taken when the earth is dead and barren. Let us revere this world that we have been given, a world like no other, entrusted to not only man but every life included. Here is an appeal to humanity, to the humanity within ourselves, to take responsibility for all that we consume and all that we dispose, to protect the earth and all that it stands for, to become a humanity that we can trust the world with.