Do you ever think about what the world will look like when you reach your golden years? I think for all of us, the answer can be found in the question. We see a golden time. We see what we want to see.
But what if, just what if, the next time you take your garbage to the curb, you think about where that bag goes once it leaves your home. What if you were to think about the barrels of petroleum that power our cars and make the fertilizer that grows our crops. What about all the paper coffee cups that are used once and discarded (about a billion a day). What if we think about where that disposable plastic bag goes after we bring our stuff back from the store and throw it out? The future stops looking golden, and quick.
At my place of work, the city’s department of the environment, this reality, this future, is all to real. And today, even we had a wake up call. My coworkers and I attended a screening of the documentary film “Trashed,” narrated by Jeremy Irons. The film covered the state of the wastes-tream, worldwide. Moreover, it noted the incredible and unusual changes of the last 50 years that have markedly changed our relationship with waste- the advent of plastics and their affects on our environment and our health.
The future (and present) is grim, folks. A particularly low moment came for me when Harrisburg, PA, not far from my childhood home, was called out for its problems with dealing with their waste-stream, putting particular focus on their incinerator and what using it has done to the local community. Mind you, Three Mile Island nuclear facility is not far away, and I have vivid memories of the famous meltdown there, too. Dioxins from the incinerator pose the more contemporary health threat, not to mention how it’s bankrupted the city. The film explores the problems of trash incineration in saddening detail.
But the film importantly points to actions that we can take to bend the curve back to balance. There was a cheer from the audience as the film shifted to San Francisco, and our progressive policies and actions to divert material from landfills to recycling and composting programs. Did you know that San Francisco diverts fully 80% of discarded material away from landfill to compost or recycling? And the aim is 100% by 2020. That’s right, no landfill by 2020. It can happen if we truly try.
One of my coworkers was interviewed by Irons in the movie and spoke eloquently about all these actions. A panel discussion followed the screening tonight and dove just a little deeper, as we searched to find ways to answer the call of the movie to stand up and demand action.
Sure the government can play a role by passing legislation. We’ve banned the plastic bag in San Francisco, and styrofoam foodservice packaging, too. Recycling and composting are mandatory for residents and businesses alike.
But there needs to be producer responsibility. Business and manufacturing need to produce products that are more easily recycled, and ones that consume less energy in being manufactured.
Above all, there needs to be a groundswell demand from the public for change. Everything we throw away is a choice, and so is everything we keep. What about addressing our behavior around consumption? What about avoiding single use, convenience packaging? Why not reuse containers and bags? Why not build a sharing economy? Why not demand every municipality have a composting program? Why not eliminate the harmful chemicals that already are poisoning our land and water. Decommission the incinerators.
This is what the movie inspired for me, but I encourage you to check it out. Find more at the following website. Link to the movie’s website: TRASHED – This is the story of garbage.
Think about what you throw away. Think about what you keep.
and Waste Nothing.
Your Trash Talking Tuesday tip:
Check out the infographic and the link below for some amazing factoids. For instance, did you know the average T-Shirt wastes 700 Gallons of water during manufacturing alone? and one pound of textiles emits more than 7 pounds of CO2!
Textile waste creates pollution and wastes precious resources so before you throw your clothes in landfill bin, consider donating, selling or recycling them.
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“In San Francisco, “we just want to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags out there,” says Jack Macy, Commercial Zero Waste Coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “If a 10-cent fee can serve as a disincentive to consumers who go to the store expecting to get a new set of plastic bags each time, then these rules will be doing their job.”
Restaurants are exempt from the new rules until next year, and noncompliant plastic bags will remain acceptable for certain items, such as bulk candy and deli meats. Food-stamp recipients won’t be charged the 10-cent fee, according to the ordinance.”
The quotation above couches the issue well. I know Jack and worked with him and his team on the development of the collateral for this campaign and can tell you, he’s a helluva good guy. A lot of thought went into this move, and it’s good legislation….
Fact: Plastic checkout bags weren’t available when I was a kid, and that was fine. Good wrap-up of the plastic bag issue, here.
Fact: There’s a patch of garbage hundreds of miles wide swirling in the Pacific, and another one like it the Atlantic. Both are full of plastic bags.
Fact: Plastic bags damage some recycling equipment. San Jose, CA reports spending $1 million annually on repairs to equipment jammed from plastic bag contamination. Read more.
San Francisco is ready to say “good-bye” to plastic checkout bags. On October 1st, 2012, the Checkout Bag Ordinance will extend the ban on one-time use, disposable plastic bags, which currently covers large grocery store chains and pharmacies. The ban will now extend to include to all shops in the city. The ordinance will also impose a fee: the customer will have to pay at least 10 cents for any checkout bag the store provides (and those bags will now be made of paper or compostable material, only).
Where does the money go?
The 10 cents goes to the shop owner, not to the city. For more information, check out the city website.
Above all, the city wants to promote reuse, so you can avoid the charge (and minimize trash) in the following way:
Bring Your Own Bag!
Here’s another great resource on the plastic bag problem.
Governments that have already banned the plastic bag:
Coastal North Carolina
Santa Cruz, CA
West Hollywood, CA
Mexico City, Mexico
SF Environment had a story to tell.
They needed a half page ad for an industry publication. In it, the Renewable Energy team wanted to highlight a useful tool available to residents of San Francisco, the SF Energy Map.
The SF Energy Map is a one-stop shop for information on how to install solar and wind in San Franciso.
Use the tool to:
• See all the solar/wind installations in your neighborhood
• Calculate your unique energy potential
• Find incentives and installers
• See how much you can save!
Visit the map:
SF Environment had a story to tell.
The transportation team of the Department of the Environment was instrumental in starting the City Cycle program, a bicycle sharing program available to City and County of San Francisco government employees. Check it out here. They needed a logo to identify the program.
This design is a poster that will designate reserved bicycle parking areas.
and, here’s a poster that will be used to advertise the program:
Here’s a previous iteration of the image used for the poster:
San Francisco, what goes in the green bin? what goes in the blue? what goes in the black? and what about orange?
Check out the following website to find out: Great Recycling Moments.