Nowadays I’m getting the strangest thoughts in the strangest places, like scrambled messages from a timeless radio transmitter. The other day the thought came to me that waste is an indicator of the level of dysfunction of a community or household. Packaged goods have usually been transported long distances, usually because of (too) cheap labour. They’re usually not fresh, or healthy, nor do they really support the local economy, whether it’s ours or a some distant worker’s. The waste becomes a pollutant and starts to accumulate at toxic levels in our, or other people’s habitat. The packaged goods may be cheaper, but at a cost.
Commentators like Monbiot write that we in the West have lengthened our supply chains so much that we can no longer trace our waste. Just as carbon dioxide emissions, and methane farts and burps emitted by cows are invisible, so are the ramifications of our actions, thus preventing us from having to feel any guilt. Perhaps it’s ever been thus.
A year on from our family’s zero-waste week, we had a dustbin review. It’s now almost entirely populated by plastic wrapping. Shops are quite cheerfully taking back our excessive packaging. We’re still plagued by those darn yoghurt pots and biscuit wrappers; maybe we’ll find an alternative. For now, plastics and fossil fuels cannot be disposed of without polluting. I look forward to a more enlightened time when we’ve learned to close the cycle, create a cyclical economy, get off oil etc and use all waste as a clean and healthy resource.