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Product Packaging is Destroying the Earth

Updated on May 10, 2010

These are a few examples of what is tossed away and its effects

Here is a small piece of deep Pacific floating garbage flotsam. There are huge seas of plastic floating in several areas of the Pacific Ocean. Some even manages to reach Antarctica, which in itself has garbage left over from explorations.
Here is a small piece of deep Pacific floating garbage flotsam. There are huge seas of plastic floating in several areas of the Pacific Ocean. Some even manages to reach Antarctica, which in itself has garbage left over from explorations.
a lot of garbage washes up on shores around the world from across the ocean, carried by the winds and currents.
a lot of garbage washes up on shores around the world from across the ocean, carried by the winds and currents.
Typically, much refuse ends in "landfills" as if land needs filling.
Typically, much refuse ends in "landfills" as if land needs filling.
Some garbage gets deliberately dumped by the edge of the ocean in regions "out of view" from the authorities.
Some garbage gets deliberately dumped by the edge of the ocean in regions "out of view" from the authorities.
Cows like this exist in large numbers in India and they got that way from ingesting too much plastic and refuse.
Cows like this exist in large numbers in India and they got that way from ingesting too much plastic and refuse.
This sea turtle has become tangled in discarded plastic fish netting and a rescue is being attempted. More often, these turtles are not rescued and are found dead from such garbage.
This sea turtle has become tangled in discarded plastic fish netting and a rescue is being attempted. More often, these turtles are not rescued and are found dead from such garbage.

Garbage continues to accumulate everywhere, but there is still more being dumped every day.

Not long ago on a planet not too far away, things were far different than they are in the industrialized world here today. People on that planet made do without plastic, aluminum foil and disposable paper cups. Instead they relied on glass and ceramic storage, waxed paper, drying, pickling, salting and other preservation techniques. Those who do home canning borrow a lot from them and don't use all that throw away plastic that others use. Many cultures worked out ways to preserve food without all the intensive wrapping that we do here that is turning our planet into a waste dump. Many cultures that are not in the developed world still use the old techniques that have been effective for countless thousands of years.


In our rushed work-a-day world of tight schedules and shortage of time, we have become increasingly reliant on convenience packaging. Thus we pile up large amounts of refuse on a daily basis. Do an experiment. For just one week, save and sort all the various packaging that you peel from your purchases and sort it into piles of paper, plastic, metal and other. It is amazing just how much accumulates, from plastic shopping bags, produce bags, Styrofoam clam-shells, plate and cups, plastic bubble and stretch wraps, paper bags, paper cups, newspapers, flyers, magazines, receipts, junk mail, regular mail, water bottles, pop bottles and tins, milk cartons, used oil, food cuttings like bones and carrot tops and so on. It is quite staggering! One family of four can produce a prodigious amount of plastic, glass, paper metal and other waste, much of which goes to a landfill. Now take the family of four and multiply it by 125 million and you begin to see the picture. These days, a lot is recycled, but this accounts for only about 30 to 50 percent of the total depending on the region. What happens to the rest?


Plastic bags get carried off by the wind, to eventually wind up in the ocean. Far out in the Pacific Ocean exists several "Sargasso Seas" of floating waste consisting of mainly plastic, wood and other floating flotsam, One such floating rubbish pile is twice the size of Texas. One is in the mid Pacific between Hawaii and California. Another clusters between Alaska and Russian in the Bering Strait. There are more! The accumulated plastic winds up being eaten by fish, sea birds and sea mammals. Many wind up dead of starvation because their stomachs are filled with plastic, leaving no room for food. It is estimated that 100,000 sea mammals die each year from ingesting plastic. The toll on fish and birds is even higher; and that just from plastic that ends up in the oceans. In India, piles of discarded plastic litter the land everywhere there are a lot of people. Cows that range freely everywhere, eat it and wind up starving to death because of stomachs full of shredded plastic. No animal can digest plastic.


These days, storm surges wash up huge amounts of plastic, which in reality is only a tiny fraction of what is out there. Plastic bottles and bubble wraps that are either not recyclable or are not recycled end up in the same locations with similar results. Those convenient carry loops that hold a six pack of beer wind up around the necks of seals and birds, slowly strangling them.


Food waste is a huge contributor to greenhouse out gassing in the form of methane. It can be collected and recycled as compost, but most ends up in the landfills, which are quickly running out of space. Even whole good food is tossed out by many big chain stores, some still entombed in plastic, just because the best before date has past. These items could be given to the poor just before expiry, but "there is no market" and giving this away might encourage people not to buy and wait for the big handout, so it is disposed of into the landfill. Wild birds attempting to free the entombed goodies wind up eating plastic too. Restaurants throw out more uneaten food from people who don't finish their meals.


Almost everyone uses newspapers and far too many just toss it into the nearest garbage receptacle without a thought of recycling. Trees that are a source of oxygen and carbon fixing are removed from the biosphere in order to make the daily news. And just what is this news that is so worthy of destroying trees? It is local news that is often screened so that people don’t get a full picture of what’s going on. The news is also often skimpy. It is ads, ads, ads, and for variety, more ads. By now, most of us know what we want and where to shop for it. At the end of the day, there is a huge surplus of newspapers that are never even bought and read. These, hopefully are recycled, as should be the newspaper you buy or pick up from a free box. There are alternatives to bulk printing. One of them is news on the internet and the other is the library. But these assume that you have ready access to the net and the time to go to the library. Ultimately, recycling has to be the solution for this one.


All glass, metals and paper products are recyclable. We can extend this to plastics if we consider making them from corn starch as some are now made and are totally biodegradable. We should strive to make packaging totally recyclable. By doing this we can go a long way to helping the planet. We will need to clean up the damage already floating or lying around and do our best to recycle these items.


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