Trash goes in the trash can and then to the side of the road to be collected and organized by a company, so most people seldom think about where trash ends up and how these companies are dealing with trash and to what resort. Out of sight, out of mind is the mentality observed in most people. In a study done recently they estimated there is 245,000 tons of garage floating in the ocean and 8 million tons dumped into the ocean a year. Out in the Pacific Ocean in the North Pacific Gyre there is a garbage island that is just the collection of plastics from currents that are all drawn into one place, that is larger than the state of Texas. Plastics in agriculture are at an all time high with a $5.87 billion market in 2012. Plastic planters bags and pots, pvc, sprinklers, feed bags, soil amendments bags and containers, water tanks, seed trays, handles on tools, plastic covering and netting/screens, bags, hoses, tape, mulch, and boots are just a few of the plastics used in agriculture. Anything to move or store water is hard to compete with and difficult to find an alternative to using plastics at this point in time. How does agriculture get away from plastics? What is the alternative to PVC, water tanks, and water hoses? Should we be growing/living in places that require plasticulture to have the foods you want to grow?
Are our beaches even all real sand anymore? A one liter bottle will be broken down to small enough pieces to have one piece be on every mile of beach on Earth. Micro-plastics are killing our wildlife and us. Synthetic chemicals from plastics are showing up in blood system and causing miscarriages. Animals are dying with plastic filled stomachs. If we did switch to a non-plastic world, how long will it take to for mother earth to get ride of all the plastics we have already made?
Trash is being bought and shipped to China so they can sort it and make new things since they lack raw materials. Sweden is also importing trash since they ran out trash a few years ago by using it for energy and now have a 1% landfill rate from all waste. Fungi have been found that eat plastics and break them down to a point that the mushrooms are edible. Houses and buildings are being built with trash. The Landfill Orchestral is making beautiful music from instruments made from trash. Spiral Island is a man-made island made from plastic bottles. This is only creating temporary relief for the problem and not looking for a solution. 288 million tons of plastic was made in 2012 and we have failed to slow down with cheap products being made and thrown away faster than are produced. We use a plastic bag for less than a few hours and spends over 20 years being broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. Companies have actually designed products to break after a time period to bring back people to buy the new and latest version. A few ways we to reduce the plastic we buy for the farm is by using all the materials locally and from the farm, the reuse of everything, digging up old pvc to be reused, making bamboo planters for seedlings, and off contour swells for irrigation. Choosing glass over plastic, metal over plastic, research into bio-plastics, and less buying plastic items is small step to take in this ever growing problem. When will regenerative ethics in the business world be popular?
Stuffing trash takes little time compared to sorting which is the most time consuming part of being trash free. Taking the first step is very import for lowering the amount of time required to sort trash. Creating your own recycle center is the next step in organizing everything that is unable to be stuffed into bricks. In our recycle center we have a separate can/bin/shelf/bag for non-broken glass, broken glass, broken mirrors, broken ceramics, tile pieces, lighters, plastic cutlery, batteries, straws, non-crushed beer/soda cans, crushed beer/soda cans, pvc, #2 plastic HDPE, rubber, non #2 plastics that are not containers, non #2 plastic containers, small metals, large metals, wires, electronics, motor pieces, tin cans, bottle caps, can tabs, sponges, cloth, long term compostables and biodegradables, usable plastic feed bags, unusable plastic feed bags, empty eco bricks, complete eco bricks, objects that can be made into planters, juice boxes, all types of lids, string, rope, screens, usable stuff, razors, shoes, aerosol cans, screws, nails, toothbrushes, paint brushes, surf board chunks, styrofoam, pens, markers, light bulbs, and a few random bins. Why sort so much? Re-purpose, reuse, art projects, building blocks, and "Jungle Tech" alternatives are a few ways we use the materials. One of the long struggles I go through is should I sort so much and keep so much, until out of the blue something happens and we require a lot of something for a project and it disappears; also if I am sorting it more than likely I have seen something on the internet about an art project that with enough of it I can create some majestic art pieces. Also gives our volunteers unlimited art supplies and a few of our volunteers made some spectacular art displays on the farm.
What do you do with toxic, reactive, ignitable, and corrosive waste like batteries, light bulbs, paints, cleaners, oils from cars and generators, store bought hygiene products with chemicals, electronics, toxic markers, acids, and items with mercury? Right now all we do on the farm is sort, store, and wait for more research on what to do next. The EPA is at about the same point that but they store toxic waste in barrels locked away in ground facilities, burning it off, burying it, storing in ponds, and injecting into underground wells. As we all just wait and wait for our toxic waste to go away, we create more and more and have do not know what to do with it. They wash up on our beaches and then we have no idea what to do with it.
At Finca Morpho we have been playing around with a few ideas to facilitate the change and one of them is called "The Black Whole", which is a box that has a indentation on top to be filled with trash and either has a lever or manual rod to compact the trash down to a bottle or into a brick to be tied up. We are still in the design and brainstorming stage and talking about the most feasible way to make the project happen to create ease on everyone to make the change to trash free easy. Making the switch easy for everyone is the goal behind this project. How do others that are trash free deal with everything? Feedback is always desired and only helps the process of learning how to deal with trash.
Through research and talking to people we have a few more projects that we want to start in our recycle program that will help with the abundance of certain objects. Non-crushed beer/soda cans can be made into roofing shingles and signs. #2 plastic can be melted down into molds to remake things or be used as bricks to build with. Wine bottles can be made into cups, used as building blocks for natural light, and reusing glass containers for preserving foods and seeds. Earthship houses being built from tires, large plastics, cans, and eco-bricks which are then plastered over to look nice are popping up everywhere. Melting down metals to be reused in the future is something we would like to try but lack the equipment to do so. We are also looking into plastic-to-energy, where they are using charcoal gasification technology to double burn plastics to make syngas to be used for energy. I have mixed feelings on the act of burning trash or organic waste. Some waste managements burn off waste for energy in other countries and few in the USA have started to do the same. The theory is if it has smoke its bad and if it's a clean burn it will show no smoke, but do the fumes still carry particles in the air? I still require more research in the matter for sure.
Over time and dealing with our own personal trash we learned to watch what we buy and what we try to bring back to the farm; though we do MOOP days on the beach and any time we go anywhere, which is where we pick up all MOOP and bring it back to farm. One of my morning routines is some yoga down on the beach platform followed by a MOOP session on the beach. The system is not perfect but it takes time and knowledge to understand the change. Its a sad story to describe, to talk about, and sets very heavy on my heart but if we don't bring up our concerns, how can we resolve them? We are still learning to deal with all different types of trash that come through the farm but we live a Mooptastic life cleaning up all types of unwanted treasures and creating magic to inspire.