When I travel, part of the fascination is seeing the different ways we all live our lives, both good and bad. As we travelled in America I became disturbed at the amount of trash we seemed to be leaving in our wake. I know that when travelling, and buying food on the run, you increase your consumption of disposable products and convenience foods, but I started to feel guilty about the large amount of garbage we were creating each day. Then I realised that most times when we ate, even in restaurants, we were given items that ended up in the rubbish bins.
At a motel Continental breakfast, the entire crockery and cutlery was disposable. So just to eat cereal and juice we binned two plastic spoons, two plastic bowls, two plastic glasses, two paper coffee cups, one plastic stirrer (we shared) along with the usual waste of serviettes, sugar packets and yoghurt containers. That’s a lot of trash!
At another cute café where we ate, we still received paper coffee cups, plastic stirrers, and sauce in individual disposable containers. When we bought popcorn for the train trip it was already packaged in a paper bag but was placed in a plastic bag, inside a paper carrier bag. In our hotel rooms the drinking glasses have been plastic and individually wrapped in plastic.
It got me thinking about waste production at a very personal level, so I did some brief googling and discovered that on average, city dwellers like me generate 1.2 kg per day (this is a very conservative figure) and it’s still growing. That’s over 8 kgs of waste per week or 436.8 kg per year. Keeping it personal that means that I discard my own weight in rubbish at least seven times in one year. That’s huge, and sobering!! Why didn’t I get this before? At home we use the recycle bin and try and minimise the rubbish and packaging but I’d never thought about it in this context.
I smugly thought that given all the trash I was creating in America, surely Australia must have less waste, but no we Australians, with America, are right up there near the top of any list I could find of the highest waste creators. New Zealanders don’t get smug, you aren’t doing so well either, have a close look at that rubbish map. In general the richer the country the more garbage is created that’s why the 1.2 kg average figure is conservative as the richer countries contribute a far greater amount of garbage. China is well on the way to joining us.
Those individually plastic wrapped plastic cups in the hotels we stayed in, which often only had a 10 second useful life as I swallowed a pill, had “Made in China” stamped proudly on the bottom of them. So their production probably contributed to the smog which I breathed in China, and wrote about in a Blog about Smog.
It finally hit home, we really are all in this together.