Trash Talk: 6 Inspiring Ways to Redefine Waste
The Big Picture
Can I talk dirty for a minute? Americans are the world’s lead creators of trash. On average, each person in this country throws away 1,600 pounds of trash… per year. Collectively the oceans of the world contain roughly 5.25 trillion pieces of garbage debris, many of which are tiny particles that marine life mistake for plankton and consume. Yes, humanity has a waste problem.
But the purpose of this article isn’t to scare you or make you feel bad. In fact, most of you are probably aware this issue exists. It’s clear that we not only need to reduce the amount of trash we create, but also to find solutions that deal with already existing trash, because much of which will outlive us.
One of the biggest issues is our definition of waste. “Waste” is something with no purpose, on the other hand “to waste” something is to squander a valuable resource. So much of what we throw away still has use! Food scraps are a perfect example: Americans waste 30-40% of the food supply, but food scraps can be used for compost, as a starter for broth, and even to grow new plants.
Inspiring Uses of Waste:
This is a problem that needs multiple approaches, there is no one answer that will fix things alone. I believe one necessary approach is to inspire others to participate in coming up with innovative and creative solutions. I’d like to share some stories where people are using trash as a resource rather than viewing it as purposeless. Some of these solutions aren’t perfect, none will fix our dirty problem on their own, they might even have a very small impact individually. The idea is to change our attitudes about the things we throw away and consider the possibility that garbage can have a second life, perhaps even more meaningful than its first…
1. This is the story of William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawian Africa, who built a windmill from discarded materials. With the power it created, William was able to provide irrigation for his village which had been suffering from drought.
2. Oscar Mendez has developed a way of creating building blocks from trash. He’s turning these blocks into affordable housing in Latin America.
3. Creating art with trash is a fun way to conserve and helps you spend more time considering new purposes for waste items.
4. Cigarettes are one of the grossest and most prevalent types of litter. World wide 4.5 trillion butts are dropped on the ground every year. This company is finding ways to repurpose them as park benches.
5. Skateboards from buckets??? Radical!
6. This man has constructed a custom musical instrument using plastic pipes and old sandals.
Have you seen any unique uses of creative recycling in action? How do you reduce what you throw away? Please share in the comments!
Featured Image Photo by Edward Clynes.