D and I went to the film screening of the movie, Trashed (preview at the end of this post), a few days ago and it's extremely difficult to come away from the doco-movie without feeling like we need to put in a lot more effort in reducing the waste we generate.
That's Jeremy Irons sitting in the midst of a landfill in Lebanon. It's something that confronts you right at the start of the documentary. Mountains of decaying matter piled up high, right next to a pristine looking sea. Except, of course, appearances can be deceiving.
The rubbish you see has been leaking into the sea and the problem floats all the way to nearby countries like Italy and Cyprus. The problem isn't so much in the rubbish, but in the fact that in the process of decay (which in the case of plastic, could take hundreds and hundreds of years), extremely harmful chemicals are released both into the water systems and into the air. With housing estates nearby and with fishermen fishing in the sea right next to the landfill, it's unsurprising that humans will feel its impact in a very real—and harmful—way.
The problem isn't just isolated to Lebanon of course. We all have landfills in the countries we live in. It's easy to say it's not our problem when we do not live in close proximity to it (and perhaps we don't even really know where our nearest landfill is) but the harmful chemicals it leaches out will have an effect on us sooner or later. And we ought to spare a thought for those who are actually living near one of the many landfills dotted around the world.
And while we may think incinerating our rubbish, instead of putting it into landfill may help, think again. Just because we burn away our rubbish doesn't mean the process does not produce harmful—if not even more harmful—gases that mess with our bodies and the environment.
We are killing our planet and ourselves in a very real, albeit extremely slow, way, and it really has to stop.
It's an uphill task in a throwaway culture. Products come at such a relatively cheap price that we can afford to buy items with the sole purpose of throwing them away (disposable plates and whatnot, garbage bags, bottled water . . . ). It's convenient, it doesn't hurt our pockets and so we persist, not realising that somewhere, somehow, something does hurt and while it may not hurt us now, it will eventually, even if it's our children it hurts.
Reducing our waste can be done. In an extremely admirable way, this family has done it.
I'm not saying that we all have to go the way that family has (if you can, kudos to you). Realistically speaking, I know D and I won't be able to do that. But perhaps in time, we can. After all, our lifestyle is merely a habit we've developed over the years and habits can change. But for now, the first thing we can do is take a little more thought into the things we purchase and those we throw away.
We can all bring reusable bags to the shops and refuse plastic bags, purchase things we know we will need for a long time, purchase things with minimal and recyclable packaging, recycle whenever we can and compost food scraps (D and I use the Bokashi Bin).
A life worth living only becomes so when we consider others and the future. As residents of Earth, I really do feel we all have some sort of responsibility when it comes to respecting the place we live in, and looking after it. You wouldn't trash your home, so why would you trash the home your home is in?