I sent a friend to your cruise ship garbage blog and he quite enjoyed it and sent this article back to me to share...
Throwaway Economy In Trouble
November 30, 2006 — By Earth Policy Institute
WASHINGTON, D.C. — "One of the distinctly unhealthy economic trends over the last half-century has been the emergence of a throwaway economy," writes Lester Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute, in his book Plan B 2.0. First conceived following World War II as a way of providing consumers with products, it soon came to be seen also as a vehicle for creating jobs and sustaining economic growth. The more goods produced and discarded, the reasoning went, the more jobs there would be.
What sold throwaways was their convenience. For example, rather than washing cloth towels or napkins, consumers welcomed disposable paper versions. Thus we have substituted facial tissues for handkerchiefs, disposable paper towels for hand towels, disposable table napkins for cloth ones, and throwaway beverage containers for refillable ones. Even the shopping bags we use to carry home throwaway products become part of the garbage flow.
The throwaway economy is on a collision course with the earth's geological limits. Aside from running out of landfills near cities, the world is also fast running out of the cheap oil that is used to manufacture and transport throwaway products. Perhaps more fundamentally, there is not enough readily accessible lead, tin, copper, iron ore, or bauxite to sustain the throwaway economy beyond another two or three generations. Assuming an annual 2-percent growth in extraction, U.S. Geological Survey data on current economically recoverable reserves show the world has 18 years of reserves remaining for lead, 20 years for tin, 25 years for copper, 64 years for iron ore, and 69 years for bauxite.
The cost of hauling garbage from cities is rising as nearby landfills fill up and the price of oil climbs. One of the first major cities to exhaust its locally available landfills was New York. When the Fresh Kills landfill, the local destination for New York's garbage, was permanently closed in March 2001, the city found itself hauling garbage to landfill sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even Virginia - with some of the sites being 300 miles away.
Given the 12,000 tons of garbage produced each day in New York and assuming a load of 20 tons of garbage for each of the tractor-trailers used for the long-distance hauling, some 600 rigs are needed to move garbage from New York City daily. These tractor-trailers form a convoy nearly nine miles long-impeding traffic, polluting the air, and raising carbon emissions. This daily convoy led Deputy Mayor Joseph J. Lhota, who supervised the Fresh Kills shutdown, to observe that getting rid of the city's trash is now "like a military-style operation on a daily basis."
Fiscally strapped local communities in other states are willing to take New York's garbage - if they are paid enough. Some see it as an economic bonanza. State governments, however, are saddled with increased road maintenance costs, traffic congestion, increased air pollution, noise, potential water pollution from landfill leakage, and complaints from nearby communities.
Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore wrote to Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001 complaining about the use of Virginia as a dumping ground. "I understand the problem New York faces," he noted, "but the home state of Washington, Jefferson and Madison has no intention of becoming New York's dumping ground."
The challenge is to replace the throwaway economy with a reduce-reuse-recycle economy. For cities like New York, the challenge should be less what to do with the garbage and more of how to avoid producing it in the first place.
An excerpt of "Plan B 2.0" by Lester Brown is available at www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB2/index.htm
Reah Janise Kauffman
Tel: 202-496-9290 x 12
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: 202-4960-9290 x 14
E-mail: [email protected]
Website : Earth Policy Institute