Throwing Away: One of the Most Misunderstood Concepts of Our Time

If I ask you to put a plate or fork away, where would you put it?

Maybe a cupboard or utensil draw. Even though you put it away, it would still be in your home.

When you throw something away, where does it go?

Where is “away?”

Slowly but surely, there’s a realization that there is not a place called “away.” Anything we throw away, is indeed ending up, like the plate and fork example, somewhere on our planet. 

It wasn’t long ago that China and other countries were our “away,” but then decided to no longer be the dumping grounds for our trash. So, now, all the trash we used to send overseas is piling up in city landfills. 

Now cities and municipalities are looking for ways to reduce, redirect and reuse the trash they’re collecting. 

Can cities reduce the amount of trash they collect?

Well, no, not really. Because cities are narrative. A city is a concept, a legal construct that is made up of people.

So when you hear of a city attempting to do something, think of people like you and me within the city limits that need to act. 

Yes, cities, or governing bodies (aka people) can redirect and reuse the trash that’s being collected. 

Reuse of trash via composting or recycling programs like the state of California has enacted is a great example of how states and cities can begin to think outside the trash. 

Waste can also be transformed into sustainable energy with biomass conversion technology. However, the waste must be properly sorted and diverted to the site where this conversion will take place rather than being sent to landfills. 

In an interview, Dave Gajadhar, Chairman of Companies for Zero Waste posed a question: How would we behave differently if we shifted from a mindset of expecting trash to one that decides ahead of time that we will not generate waste?

While I understand that it’s unreasonable to expect the mindset of throwing things away to change overnight, what if we started with tweaking the phrase “throw it away” to “throw it somewhere else?” 

At least then, some curious soul might be motivated to ask, “where is somewhere else?”

Raj Daniels

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