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2012 Spring Issue 6 (May 11, 2012)

What Happens to my Garbage?

May 11, 2012
By Amber Kim

If you’ve been to any river or body of water, you have probably seen trash, primarily plastics floating around.  Much of this garbage eventually makes its way to the ocean, littering the ocean with on average about 13,000 broken down pieces of plastic per square kilometer.  However, there is one region in the Pacific called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, approximately the size of Texas, where a disproportionate amount of plastics accumulates. This region is full of small plastic particles the size of fingernails, drastically changing the marine ecology.  A study found that 9% of fish have amounts of plastics, which can contain toxins hazardous to wildlife.  More astoundingly, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has grown 100-fold in the last 40 years. 

I think that the Garbage Patch is truly a testament to the amount of waste that we produce and do not properly dispose.  As a society, we have a mindset of “out of sight, out of mind,” where as long as we don’t have to directly deal with our waste, we don’t care. So much energy and so many resources go into producing something that will immediately go to a landfill or (hopefully) be recycled or composted.  It doesn’t seem to make sense but we don’t really think about it because it is convenient and a normal part of our society.  But I don’t think that this mindset has to be the norm.  We may find it inconvenient, but by taking even little steps like refusing plastic bags, carrying your own silverware and container, using a reusable water bottle, and of course, properly disposing of products, can help us become more aware of our actions and impacts to change the norm of not thinking about what happens to our waste.

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