Sunday, June 18, 2006

Reduce, reuse, recycle

When we first arrived in Chicago, we were living in an apartment block. All our waste was put into a receptacle in the hall that took everything away down a garbage / rubbish / trash chute… never to be seen again. It was all very convenient, but we started to have a mounting pile of recyclables in our kitchen. I am so used to sorting refuse, it was against all my principles to include glass, tin, paper and plastic items with general household waste. My parents were responsible for ingraining these principles: we had a compost container, newspaper pile, different bins for recyclables, and general waste, even a container for food waste to go to the birds. Even when living in Brisbane, we had a separate bin for recyclable products (and a compost heap for some time – that sprouted several trees!) Most containers and packages have a recycle logo and plastic products have a number to define the plastic type. I am still scanning all containers in the hope of finding a recycling logo. The majority of packaging here does not carry this. 

Old habits die hard and I tried to find out a way to manage recyclable goods. I have seen a couple of recycling stations. These are no good for a cold climate or for people without cars, let alone the motivation that is required to transport goods to such a service. Someone mentioned to me that there was a ‘blue bag’ program for recycling waste. I had no idea what this meant so I did quite a bit of searching but found it difficult to find any clear information. I ended up buying some blue bags from Peapod (online grocery delivery service). Apparently, the blue bags can be filled with recyclable goods and these are then sorted (by some unfortunate soul) from general refuse. Different bags are to be used for paper goods, plastic / tin / glass / aluminium, and garden waste. Nowhere on the bags or the box that they come in, is the need to sort by different garbage type mentioned. I have since discovered that Wholefoods offers blue bags for groceries (if requested). It seems very strange to put all the garbage together – landfill and recyclables

Wastage extends to water usage. An abundant supply in the form of the very large fresh water Lake Michigan makes water use and wastage so easy. Advertisements for housing all note ‘steam’ or ‘spray’ showers, Jacuzzi tubs, and other high water usage appliances. These are the antithesis of the water saving shower heads promoted in Australia. The parks are very lush as sprinklers spray day and night. Footpaths (sidewalks) are often wet with the overflow from people watering their gardens. If only we could package up all this water and send it over to Australia. My second cousin, Chris Griffith, has put together an online project report about the dire straits of the Brisbane water situation. Check this out at: 

Last night, Paul and I saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth. This is a movie about Al Gore’s (former Vice President and “former Next President of the US”) personal crusade to stem the impact of global warming. It was inspirational to see someone of such high calibre taking such a strong personal stance. I have been really impressed by former political figures using their clout when political imperatives can be put aside for moral, humanitarian and global advance. Including our own ex-prime minister and Liberal Party member, Malcolm Fraser and his work and high profile with Care Australia.  

The current Australian government, also the Liberal Party, does not share such global or humanitarian insight. While 163 countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol, two developed countries refuse to sign: Australia and the USA. What an embarrassment. Australia is currently one of the highest emitters (per capita) of greenhouse gasses in the world. Our small contribution due to our low population is continually cited as a reason for not signing. Despite the USA not being a signatory, nine states (and some 192 cities in the US) have agreed to reduce emissions in line with the Protocol. This includes the state of New York that, coincidentally, has a population comparable to Australia. 

No comments:

Post a Comment