Then your children will be next.
According to the Manic Street Preachers.
And, in so many ways, they are right it seems.
I’m not going to go through each one because if we start looking deeper into politics and education and health then we might all start to feel pretty miserable.
But I am going to talk about the state of the planet.
It’s something I am ashamed to admit that I am only just becoming more aware of in terms of the very real impact of our daily choices on our Earth.
And it is our Earth. We inhabit it. I inhabit my house and so I look after it. Because I need it to continue to provide me with warmth and shelter. And because the people I hold dearest also inhabit it. And so I need it to provide those things for them too. More so than myself.
But what good is our house if, by 2050, ‘Earth will expire’ as was warned by the WWF all the way back in 2002?
What good is our house is we have to store all our own rubbish in it because there is nowhere left for it to go? We can laugh this off as extreme and ridiculous but just this week, China have refused to take our recycled waste as of March. March. Our councils now have two months to figure out where to send all our recycling (and if you’re anything like me – parent of two kids 5 and under – you were thinking three more months and you might just be on top of the Christmas recycling. Well, you’ve only got two. Tops.)
But at least this waste will be recycled. We’re not yet sure how or where or whether our taxes will rise because of it, but at least this waste is intended for recycling.
The more worrying thing for me, is our waste which is not being recycled, but could be recycled. The glass which is tossed in the dustbin despite being 100% recyclable and completely unable to decompose. Surely it’s a no brainer?
Or what about the 36 million pounds worth of aluminium we throw away in the UK every year. If we recycled it all, we’d need 14 million fewer dustbins. That might bring the council tax down a bit.
But the scariest thing for me is that in the UK alone, never mind the rest of the world, we throw away 16 million plastic bottles EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Yes, that wasn’t a typo. 16 million plastic bottles which could be recycled but are simply thrown in residual waste and headed for landfill sites where, on average, they will each take 450 years to decompose. So forget your children being next. This legacy will be around for your children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s (and so on) children. Except there may not be a legacy because the Earth, unable to cope with this constant barrage of unrecycled waste, may, as predicted by the WWF, begin expire.
The oceans are already under siege from all this plastic. We are running out of land and so 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans every year. To the point where there is a section of water in the North Pacific Gyre which has been named The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is a floating mass of plastic, twice the size of Texas (so almost six times the size of the UK), and where pieces of plastic outnumber sea creatures six to one. There’s nothing Great about that.
And there is absolutely nothing sustainable about it. Earth cannot sustain this level of waste. But Earth can’t do a thing about it. We are abusing it. Neglecting its basic needs. And, as a result, we are neglecting our own needs.
We can do a lot. We can reuse wherever possible. We can avoid buying single use plastics wherever possible. We can recycle (ensuring all unrecyclable labels are taken off first and ensuring the packaging has been cleaned of course). We can buy the loose bananas, instead of the bunch in the plastic, cellophane wrapping which cannot be recycled or reused. But we can only do so much.
Manufacturers must take more responsibility. The amount of plastic packaging for toys, food, appliances etc is ludicrous. Especially unrecyclable plastic in the form of little bags used to separate different components within larger packaging. I know that plastic must be the cheapest way for them to keep everything safe and secure in transit and to keep it all looking new and fresh. But surely the cost of using cardboard is nothing compared to the cost to our planet which is already starting to crack under the pressure from the onslaught of our waste.
People have now become so used to living in a disposable society. Where something breaks and you throw it away because it’s easily replaceable. Well that only lasts so long.
Our world is not replaceable. And I want my children to grow up on a fully functioning planet. Where trees are not struggling for land against land fills full of waste which will be there for the next five hundred years at least, if it’s plastic, or indefinitely if it’s glass. Where oceans and their wildlife still exist. Where they can feel confident about tucking into a plate of fish without wondering if there are fragments of plastic inside it.
It seems overwhelming but we have to do everything we can. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Because if we tolerate this, it wont just be our children next. It’ll be all of us.