As readers may know, the city of Jasper has acknowledged they are losing substantial money with their garbage service and are considering changes, including scrapping the program altogether.
Not only is this NOT unique to our small town, it’s a classic example of a growing worldwide problem: what are we going to do with all those shipping boxes, plastic bottles, food scraps and old clothing piling up at astonishing rates?
Consider the size of the garbage mound:
• Americans trash seven pounds of material per person every single day—that’s 2,555 pounds of material per American every year, according to a study by Columbia University. Another study by the World Bank had a much smaller figure, saying that the average American only produces 2.6 pounds of garbage a day.
• The same World Bank study found a staggering 90 percent of all raw materials extracted in the U.S. are ultimately dumped into landfills or burned in incinerators.
• Packaging is the single largest component entering the waste stream, so most of what we throw away was designed from the start to have a lifespan lasting only until a product enters a customer’s home.
Often anything related to garbage, recycling and waste immediately gets brushed off as an environmental issue. “Oh, those wacky Greens wanting me to help the polar bears.”
But the business community and municipalities have recognized the conundrum of finding somewhere to put all that garbage is a tangible problem. As the Jasper council and garbage service customers now see firsthand, garbage is only out of sight, out of mind if you are willing to spend deeply out of pocket.
The World Bank study “What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management” noted that the amount of waste is directly tied to the amount of commerce. The more stuff people buy, the more packaging, wrapping, and older products they discard.
The report cautioned this is a true threat to the sustained consumer economy.
At a much more local level, the World Bank report cited waste handling as one of the highest budget items for municipalities and also the most common source of local pollution. For Jasper, yes, it is a high dollar item and, yes, the garbage that doesn’t make it to the dump pollutes our roadsides, parks and natural areas.
Locally and personally, there are several things that would make a dent in the problem, which can be summed up with the saying, “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
• Food waste is the largest component that ends up in the landfill (after recyclables are taken out). In America, we buy a lot of food only to let it sit in the fridge until it goes bad and then throw it away un-opened (some estimates are more than 30 percent of all food produced is thrown away). Leftovers may be a thing of the past as well, but they shouldn’t be. For your own financial health tackle this in your own fridge/grocery cart.
• Plastic bags constitute a sizeable waste problem. Simply quit using them and encourage retailers to follow the chain store Kroger’s lead and begin work to phase them out. In England a small mandated plastic bag charge cut their usage by 80 percent.
• Consider any time you purchase or use a one-time use item, you are quickly adding to the garbage problem. Reuseable plastic/metal bottles and coffee mugs are one easy place to start. The waste and cost of buying bottled water to drink in your home, when the tap water here is just as safe is the pinnacle of poor, short-term thinking.
• Recycle – Pickens County operates two very convenient stations, one on Camp Road; one on Cove Road.
While the Jasper City Council wants to square their budget for garbage service, we encourage them to think locally to be part of a solution for a global problem.