Originally posted on EidoScope:
For those of us who mindlessly engage in consumption binges, have you considered what happens to all the material waste you produce (if you have not caught on, I am not talking about the stuff drained down the toilet)? I think I know the answer. There was a very interesting piece in the WSJ – Grappling With a Garbage Glut – which gives us enormous cause for pause and some soul searching. Among industrialized nations, the USA is the worst offender, no surprise here, dumping on average about 7 lbs per person per day which translates to about 102 tons per year! Staggering. Some other facts, 19 billion pounds of polystyrene peanuts make their way to the landfills. Disposable cutlery (knives, forks and spoons) waste is about 40 billion! There is enough steel in the garbage dumps to reconstruct the whole of Manhattan!! And get this, Texas can be shrink wrapped with the plastic film at the landfills. Ridiculous.
I grew up in India in a middle class family. There were no big box retail chains. I helped my parents shop vegetables every week. I carried a bag to the store. Groceries were packed in old newspapers. Biodegradable jute fiber was used to bind the newspaper packing. My parents still use containers which are now probably 40+ yrs old (mind you, they are made of plastic and are almost in pristine condition). Table cleanup in hotels used the stems of banana leaves. Food in restaurants were served on banana leaves (not everywhere though). The used leaves served as food for the cows. There are many other examples. There was much efficiency. Recycling was a natural outcome of the economics of daily life.
I have despaired on the last few visits. Surely, the standard of living has improved enormously because of globalization. But it comes at a huge hidden cost. Rampant consumerism (a sad side effect of the world is flat paradigm) is a Western cultural export that has taken a firm foothold in India now. The problem is compounded because the disposal and recovery mechanisms, and infrastructure, for waste management are not as advanced as in the West. Well, you get the idea.