Cost of Garbage

Violent clashes persisted Saturday night into Sunday between police and people living on the outskirts of Naples, where the dump near the small town of Terzigno opened last year as a stop-gap solution for rubbish from Italy’s third largest city.

For more than a week, protesters in Terzigno have torched vehicles, burned Italian flags and hurled stones at police, all to protest against the stench and filth at a local dump and plans to open a new one in the Mount Vesuvius national park.

People in Italy are mad about the garbage lining the streets. They are mad because to solve problems of Naples, the government has opened up temporary dump sites near smaller towns. Understandably people there are less than happy about the “temporary” solution.

What is happening in Italy is a complex interaction between government and organized crime. But, this story illustrates disconnection with our actions – We do not realize the true cost of Garbage.

More and more of it is being produced. I don’t seem to remember so much plastic refuse as a kid. Usually if I buy some sort of electronics goods there is a fortress of plastic surrounding a very small amount of material. This seems such a way so much plastic some much cardboard just prevent stealing ? But, there are alternatives – Companies have made efforts towards responsible packaging.4

Wrapping food in plastic seems so nonsensical. I try and pass on plastic boxes – but of course during blueberry or strawberry season it is hard. I like the cardboard boxes you can get at farmer’s markets though. Of course I still put my fruit into the convenient plastic bags. I try and reuse the bags, but that still means I create waste.

I was thinking about getting a new flatscreen television. But, our CRT television works just fine. It seems a shame to get rid of a working television just because I want something a little bit newer. What I gain by upgrading is very little considering how much waste that I produce. I think this obsession with new and cutting-edge or keeping up with fashion is wrong. It’s simply wrong. There is a cost of buying new stuff, there is a cost with creating new garbage. We just don’t realize what this cost is. After listening to “The story of stuff”, the true costs become more real.

This is why the crisis in Italy is so telling. The cost of garbage is apparent. It’s out in the streets stinking, smelling and generally making people unhappy, unhealthy and furious with their government.

But, it does illustrate the true cost of garbage. This stuff has to go somewhere. Either gets burned and goes up in the air or gets buried. Garbage just doesn’t disappear.

When we were living in Goose Bay, there was a garbage strike. Garbage was not picked up for weeks. The garbage left out in bags on the street. Goose Bay is in northern Labrador. There is very little surrounding it except for trees. Bears live in the forest. Well most of time. When there was free garbage available they decided to meander into town and help themselves. The town authorities wisely told us to supervise children and keep pets indoors. We should be trying to head towards a point where we are not creating garbage rather than trying to find more carpet to sweep it under.

“Zero impact” should be our goal. Not only regarding garbage but chemicals, pollutants, carbon dioxide and anything and everything that could possibly hurt us. This may seem like an idealistic goal. But, it is what nature intended . Energy and materials in nature or in a closed system. Everything is used and everything is recycled. This is the kind of cyclic processing that we require in our modern society. It is some sort of unattainable dream? Possibly, the way we live. It is incredibly hard to live a sustainable non-impact lifestyle. But, the cost of doing otherwise is a great deal more catastrophic than we were led to believe. With our garbage hidden away from us we have no idea the cost of our daily business.


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