Acquisition & Elimination
I had a restful week off last week camping in the northerly woods of Southern Ontario at a park I love called Bon Echo in the back country where you have to canoe in to your site on Joe Perry Lake.
I had time to contemplate things hanging out under the trees by a lake and one of the things I thought about more has to do with waste. Lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the incredible volume of waste material I produce either through my production process here at the studio, through daily consumption of goods and food or through the elimination of items I no longer use.
I’m trying to consider the afterward for all the materials I acquire in my life. By that I mean where does it go after I’m done with it. For a long time I, like most people I’m sure, have thought oh no problem I’ll send this whatchamacallit to recycling. But in truth we have absolutely no idea where it actually goes beyond the curb of our homes or what actually happens to it when it gets there. This is compounded by all the material it comes wrapped in when new.
I’ve begun to think of my acquisition as causing the object to be manufactured. Kind of like when Bugs Bunny pulls out the towel from under Yosemite Sam’s head and a new one appears (is that the right cartoon?). As soon as I or anyone purchases a new something object, another one is manufactured to replace it – okay its not that simple I know but conceptually that’s what’s happening. If we don’t consume the object then there is no need to make a new one. At some point the manufacturer of said object stops producing them because they are not being consumed by us.
And then there is the where does it go issue. After I’m done with lets say some piece of electronics like a cell phone it has to go somewhere. Assuming the best case where it’s still working and functionally useful and I manage to sell or give it away that’s good right? … for now. Eventually down the chain of owners it breaks or becomes worthless because of its lack of new function and is thrown away. Because I bought it and in a sense caused it’s manufacture I am responsible for its disposition at the end of its useful life.
This thinking is causing second thoughts about just simply getting a new thing because I can afford it or want it. I try to find another solution if its an object that solves a problem. But this isn’t always possible and in the end I am still contributing to the overall congestion and clutter of the world with broken and worthless manufactured items. I do try to be more careful about what I acquire often purchasing something that may be more expensive because ultimately it will last longer or be more functional for a longer period of time i.e. I’m reducing the stream of cast offs by having each item last longer and therefore there are less of them over the same period of time.
But this is not a solution. I want manufacturers to stop using packaging that is not recyclable or rather – easily recyclable. I want less packaging. I want goods that work better and last longer. I want goods to be manufactured from parts that can be replaced or disassembled into recyclable components. I am tired of cheaply made things that break easily because of some ridiculous small plastic piece that makes the entire item useless. Yes I know I can go and acquire a new one for almost no money but the impact on MY environment is too high.
We need better recycling programs too. I’m not too clear on the technical details but I’ve begun to notice that a very high proportion of the plastics I produce in my waste stream are NOT recyclable. So why, may I ask as a consumer society are we even considering using these plastics?
This is a major problem and also by the way a monster business opportunity for the individual who manages to find uses for all our waste – free raw materials in massive abundance.