I think it was Dr.Phil that said:
The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.
That’s a handy sentiment when looking at people and relationships; it’s actually horrifying if the same can be said about trash, waste disposal and pollution.
If the way we have treated the environment, and managed waste disposal in the past few decades, is an indicator of how we will manage these things in the future; build me a rocket ship, and get me the hell off this planet! I just don’t want to live in a world where people’s health is jeopardised by trash, and landfill landslides destroy villages.
The household waste, marine pollution, and overflowing landfill issues have reached epic proportions. All bets are off, the results are in and we are in some serious trouble here. What does our future look like if we can’t manage to turn this around?
According to World Bank global waste could grow by as much as 70% by 2050. That’s a frightening number. They also reported:
- The rise in trash will surpass population growth by 2050, reaching 3.4 billion tonnes annually.
- 90% of waste in low-income countries is currently mismanaged; it’s just dumped or burned.
The Future of Recycling
Recycling is something we need to get better at, and quick smart, if we are going to have a chance of turning this environmental train wreck around.
In recent years, European governments have made it a priority to develop more efficient ways of recycling. There have been significant changes to the way paper and plastic are recycled, even aluminum.
Waste management and recycling efforts have been slow to start from a business standpoint, as it’s always been deemed as ‘not cost-effective.’
But whoever comes up with the technology that makes recycling cost-effective stands to make a fortune. Call me crazy, but I think it’s time that big business and governments start looking at recycling as an opportunity, rather than a problem.
Imagine for a second that discarded plastic bottles were viewed as a valuable commodity. Imagine if businessmen and governments could make hefty profits from recycling them… they’d all be frothing at the mouth waiting to cash in!
We just have to keep working on inventing the technology required to get to that point. It’s possible. People have been inventing solutions to problems since the dawn of time.
Modern Trash is Changing
The type of waste that is being discarded has changed a lot over the decades as well, and that’s predominantly due to e-waste.
This term was coined to describe the waste that comes from technology. Things like:
- Tablets and smartphones
- Printers and Scanners
- Small Appliances like microwaves and blenders
- Gaming consoles and DVD players
When you add the auxiliary cords and consumable products that go along with these, like headphones, printer cartridges, and keyboards, it adds up to a truckload of waste.
Think about what’s in your home currently. It’s estimated that the average Australian household has 22 electronic items each.
Technology is constantly improving and changing, and we’ve been conditioned to want the latest and greatest model of just about everything. Remember back in around 2010, Australia was all a buzz that our television signals would soon become completely digital? Those who owned an analogue TV set would require a digital set-top box to continue viewing free to air TV. This is a perfect example of modern consumption. Rather than buying the digital set-top box (that the government had subsidized if my memory serves!) people were tossing their TV’s from the rooftops and spending up big on the latest digital flat screen, I should know; I was one of them – sigh.
When the new iPhone is launched, or the kids want the latest PlayStation, what happens to the “old technology?”
Where does all this e-waste end up?
The fastest-growing waste category is e-waste; it increases by 3-4% every year. By 2021, it’s estimated that e-waste will account for 52.2 million tonnes of trash every year. That’s a huge chunk of plastic. Of all this e-waste, approx. 15% is recycled.
E-waste contains a lot of plastics, which of course can be recycled. However, recycling efforts are hampered by the flame retardant properties of some items. There is also not a lot of information out there about the correct way to dispose of e-waste in Australia, so the majority of it ends up in landfills.
Fortunately, techcollect.com.au is paving the way for e-waste recycling in Australia. TechCollect is a place where you can drop old computers and phones etc, and be confident they will be disposed of correctly.
The reality is that e-waste that’s not disposed of properly and left in a landfill, can leach mercury and other heavy metals into our groundwater. More than 95% of the materials in e-waste can be recovered. Materials like plastics and circuit boards. These can be sold back to the industry and reused in the manufacturing of new items.
What Can You Do Today?
- Support your local and state governments that prioritise environmental issues. Read up on their policies and plans.
- Educate those around you. If you’re passionate about the environment and tackling the trash epidemic, talk about it!
- Refuse to allow unnecessary plastics and packaging into your home.
- Reduce your own personal consumption
- Reuse everything you can. Get creative.
- Recycle everything you can. Research and locate local recycling plants and go straight to the source.
The question is, can we move towards a more sustainable way of living before it’s too late? The fact is that in the future, we will have more people. More people = more consumption of resources.
The future of trash management does not lie solely in better waste disposal, or reducing single-use plastics. These are all brilliant things that we need to be doing of course! But that’s just the beginning.
We seem to have the “education” side of it down pat. Kids are learning about the environment in school, even growing vegetables and composting.
With the introduction of the Internet and social media, brighter lights are being shone on the environmental issues we are facing.
We have the knowledge.
We have the education.
So what’s missing?
I believe it’s social evolution. Our society needs to evolve socially if we have a chance of saving the environment for future generations.
The competitive nature of human beings and the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality drives greed, excess and consumerism. Social awareness and the development of a social conscious is what is needed now. In my humble opinion; these things, along with reducing, reusing and recycling our materials is the key to long term environmental change and success.
Maybe Dr. Phil does have a point. The behaviour of past generations centred around a “Waste not, Want not” philosophy. Past generations had a sense of community. They lifted each other up and helped one and other. They were grateful for what they had and took care of their belongings. They shared resources, reused everything and wasted nothing.
If we can adopt this mentality, the future will look much brighter for our global community and the environment we live in.