Monday, 10 June 2013


Killer whales so contaminated that they were classified as toxic waste. A once-beautiful Lebanese beach that’s now a towering mound of garbage, bleeding contaminants into the Mediterranean Sea. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area the size of Quebec that has six times as much plastic as plankton, the foundation of the food chain.
We all know that trash is a serious environmental problem, but it’s hard to grasp the full extent of the global predicament, and even if you are well-informed, it’s good to be reminded that waste is perhaps the most dire environmental crisis today. So often I hear people say that they are going to throw something 'away'. There is no such place as 'away'.
In this documentary Trashed tells the story of the world’s waste disposal problems through the eyes of Jeremy Irons. The actor-turned-environmental activist takes the audience around the world, showing first some of the most gory garbage patches, before presenting the challenges of getting rid of such trash.
Jeremy Irons, who narrated the film, noted, “We’re making more garbage now than at any time in history.” At the beginning of the film, Irons travelled to Sidon, Lebanon where he found a large, uncontrolled waste dump on the beach. He interviewed a Palestinian refugee who had come to Lebanon 30 years earlier, when the trash mound was non-existent. “When I first worked here it wasn't here,” the refugee said.
In Britain, Irons found that the waste problem was not quite as obvious as in Lebanon but was still significant. Paul Dainton, a British activist who tries to promote regulation of landfill sites said, “We have the most landfill sites in Europe.” Dainton added that breaches occur in the lining of the landfills with “notorious regularity.”
The waste problem is no less serious in the United States. “Over the past decade, 14 dumps around New York have reached capacity,” Irons said. A major problem with these landfills is that the lining used to prevent seepage of materials to the surrounding soil is not always reliable. As a result, landfills can threaten the environment for hundreds of years.
An alternative to landfills used in some parts of the world is incineration of waste. This method has its advantages, but in many ways is not much better than using landfills.
“It’s a very, very challenging environment inside an incinerator,” Professor of Bio-imaging at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland Vyvyan Howard said in the film. Incinerators produce man-made halogenated dioxins, which cause health concerns and can be extremely toxic.
In one small French town, 24 out of 80 residents on a street near an incinerator got cancer. There is no conclusive proof that their cancer came from toxins released from their incinerator, but such a high rate of the disease is unusual. “Governments have to be prepared to act with caution,” Howard said, referring to the danger created by toxins from incinerators.
No area of the planet has been safe from the toxins and waste spread by incinerators, factories and other means. “The Arctic has become one of the most contaminated places on Earth,” Irons said. Charles Moore, an oceanographer and boat captain who has done research on the Great Pacific Garbage, noted, “It’s rare to find a trawl that has no plastic in it.” As Moore says, waste is a problem both on land and sea, with no areas immune to the effects of pollution.
“This is not about what might happen in some distant future,” Irons warned. Howard added, “What we have to do is to stop making that amount of waste.”
Irons ends the film by saying that the status quo in terms of waste management must change. “We are trashing the planet and it’s time to stop,” he said. If waste management practices do not change, Irons and other environmentalists believe the waste problem will continue to damage the planet.


Alice ~ writer, boater, dreamer, traveller said...

As we prepare to downsize (again) from our boat to a camper, the enormity of how far we have come since we began on this 'simple living/downsizing adventure' 5 years ago becomes apparent. We have so much less stuff now and we think so much harder before we buy more stuff. In a world where people seem to buy and dispose of 'stuff' with such flippancy, it feels strange to be where we are. I think that if more people could be educated about the importance of valuing better quality over cheap quantity, we could certainly start to make a dent in the rubbish we throw away in that regard... i know there are a zillion things we could all be doing better, but trying to produce less rubbish is something I think we can all easily partake in. Thanks once again for this informative post.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

I always think of my childhood in London when I visit you blog Alice, we had very, very little indeed, and yet wanted for absolutely nothing.