Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"There is a Texas-size section of the Pacific Ocean that is irretrievably clogged with garbage and it will never go away."

I'm beginning to wonder if my primary objection to littering isn't aesthetic.

In preparation for an upcoming trek, I've been doing a lot of urban hikes. These walks take me to many of the highest points in the city, some of which are tree-covered. The volume of trash I see is alarming, so I've begun taking along a plastic (!) shopping bag. I typically manage to fill a bag in ten to fifteen minutes. The bag then goes into the nearest public receptacle, which is often already overflowing with refuse.

The title is a quote from a horrific article I read recently about the mess we've already made of the ocean. Plastic, the major problem, will photodegrade over time, but once its broken down into individual polymers, that's it, we're stuck with it. And now our ocean is teeming with it, tiny pieces ingested by fish that make their way into the fatty tissue and up the food chain. To us. (Or at least to those of you who eat fish.)

Yesterday while I was gathering my city garbage I began to wonder where my garbage was going to end up. How much better off are we having our trash collected in dumps rather than simply piling up around us (as is the case in many developing countries)? Would we think twice about purchasing that new toy if we knew we were going to have to hold on to it forever?

On a brighter note, the city of San Francisco has decided to expand its plastic bag ban from large supermarkets and chain pharmacies to all retailers city wide. Additionally, the law will require stores to charge 10 cents for paper bags, to encourage people to bring their own, reusable bags.


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