A Disposable Life Hurts Our Spirits

By Mica D’Alesandro

Photo by Alex Chaffee http://flic.kr/p/8yFJFfThe next time you’re in the grocery store, look around at the rows and rows of cardboard, tin, aluminum, plastic, and glass containers. Consider your disposable razors, your plastic lighters, tiny water bottles, soda cans, the red cups you drink out of at parties, tissues, paper towels, and sandwich bags. Think about your last hotel visit and the soap you unwrapped to use once and the tiny lotion and shampoo bottles. When you purchase a product online, the item is usually delivered in an individual package, surrounded by styrofoam, in a box, with a receipt placed in a plastic bag.

If you stop and look around it will hit you . . . the amount of waste is unfathomable.

Compared to other nations, the United States has a record of generating waste at an alarming rate. In 2007, Americans threw out about 570 billion pounds of municipal solid waste. Each American discards an average of more than 1,650 pounds of garbage every year, or approximately 4.6 pounds per person each day. This is nearly double the 1960 average of 2.7 pounds per day!

Packaging is the largest and most rapidly growing category of solid waste. More than 30% of municipal solid waste is packaging, and 40% of that waste is plastic. Plastics never biodegrade and do not disappear. Even as dust plastic persists for centuries, wreaking havoc on ecosystems.

Given its lifespan, the quantity of plastic waste we throw away is deeply concerning. Plastics accumulate in our landfills and threaten our groundwater supplies. Recycling plastic requires careful sorting and the end product is often too low quality for use in the health care field. Plastic waste has accumulated to the point where degraded plastic pieces of the central North Pacific outweigh surface zooplankton by a factor of six to one. In fact, plastic is the vast majority of waste that has accumulated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Our consumerism and disposable-style doesn’t just affect our environment — it infects our spirits. It breeds within us a sense of laziness; a sense that we can just throw away our broken TV rather than take it somewhere to get fixed.

And because we can easily “throw it away,” we also attach less value to things. Pope Francis has condemned our culture of waste that involves not only goods, but people. He has said that we are more concerned with material possessions, money, and the stock market, while human beings themselves “are disposed of, as if they were trash.”

One of the first steps in reducing waste and protecting the environment may be to attach more value to the things in our life. Purchase things that you can reuse, such as bags to carry your groceries or real, not-plastic razors. Many of you may already be doing this.

When we invest in higher-quality goods that are made to last, we foster qualities such as gratitude, appreciation, empathy, sharing, and respect. It’s just better to live the reusable life.

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Mica D’Alesandro grew up in Ormond Beach, FL her whole life and has always loved the ocean and animals, attended the University of Tennessee with a degree in Environmental Issues with Globalization, in her spare time she does social media for Save the Water and Foodshift, and is a journalist for The Untz and Edenkeeper.org.  She also travels around the US promoting and interviewing musicians and attending music festivals.

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