In the last post, I made a suggestion to set up your kitchen so that the main waste receptacle is a compost bin. The idea is to set a limit on how much trash you send to landfill by putting compost front-and-center and creating a much smaller bin or bag for landfill waste. I set that up years ago but I was spurred to writing about it last week after seeing a news special by Monica Lam on KQED (Bay Area public television) – California’s Plastic Problem.
California’s plastic problem
Here’s the video, below which I’ll list a few key points from it:
- If plastics were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, globally.
- Every minute, more than 1 million plastic bags are used around the world, and most bags are used for only 15 minutes.
- 10 million tons of discarded plastic end up in the ocean every year – that’s about one garbage truckload, every minute.
- There are over 2400 chemicals frequently added to plastics that are potentially dangerous – for example, bisphenols, phthalates, and flame retardants. Endocrine disruptors, known toxins and some that cause intellectual disabilities.
- Microplastics have been found in almost every sample examined – from Mt. Everest to the Mariana Trench. – Dr. Scott Coffin
- One study found microplastics in 4 out of 6 placentas, examined. They were present on both the mother’s and the embryo’s side, indicating that microplastics are ingested by the mother and passed to her baby.
- Of the estimated 9 billion tons of plastic that has been produced in the last 150 years, only around 9% has been recycled.
- The amount of plastic manufactured in the US alone, generates an estimated 100 million tons of CO2 emissions. That’s the same as running fifty coal-powered power plants (500 MW)
- In California, more than 12,000 tons of plastic end up in landfill every day. That’s about 2 kg of plastic per person each week (111 kg / year) – and that’s specifically just the plastic that ends up in landfill.
What to do about California’s plastic problem?
The news special featured a group of kids who generated almost no classroom waste for the entire year. After the students spoke to the Berkeley City Council, a law was passed that required restaurants in Berkeley to provide reusable utensils for dining in-house and compostable utensils for take-out.
Most of your waste should go to compost
I dealt with that in the last post, the best way to reduce your waste, so I won’t repeat it here. But I do want to summarize the main reasons why most (75% or more) of your waste should be going to compost:
- A lifestyle that’s in tune with the planet generates mostly compostable waste, i.e., mostly fresh fruit and veg.
- Sending organic waste to landfill is problematic as it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas
- Recycling is a solution only for certain items – stop with the wish-cycling!