I should get off Facebook. My body temp rises every time I read posts from peeps who declare, like one person today, that people living in polluted places should pay for what they’ve done. How can someone pay more than by having to live among pollution and sewerage?
The island that we’re on is small and does not, for valid reasons, produce anything much other than Oil & Gas and very nice coffee. Most things are imported. It is also the poorest country in South East Asia in which most people are living below the poverty line. So, when someone needs a bowl in which to rinse their vegetables, they need something cheap. Introducing the lightweight, flexible, 100% plastic (most likely containing BPA) sieve, price 40 cents.
Next to it on the shop shelves is a pink plastic storage container, plastic plates, plastic tablecloth and some plastic utensils. We also use one of these sieves as there is simply nothing else available.
When the several hundred thousand of these sieves wear out (soon, due to their cheap & flimsy nature) they will become part of the world’s refuse except that they will remain that way for up to 1000 years. Let not even start on the barrels of oil it takes to produce this plastic in the first place….
Today I purchased the same strong, plastic package of laundry detergent that most people in South East Asia would buy. I’ve done a diagram of where this plastic goes. It’s not pretty.
Obviously that’s not the end of the packet’s adventure. We only hope that it doesn’t make it into the stomach of some harmless & beautiful creature.
We read the other day that 88-95% of the world’s ocean plastic comes from 10 rivers; 8 of which are in Asia. Timor’s neighbour was one of the biggest contributors but the Yangtze, alone, spews more than 330,000 tonnes each year, into that ocean we sail on, swim in, and love.
“Recycle”, you might say. After all, Timor-Leste is an eco-paradise, so there’s a good incentive. The sad reality is that at the present going rate per tonne for plastic scrap it will take a miracle for a recycling centre to be established here anytime soon. There simply isn’t the population to make the figures add up.
It’s too easy to stand high and mighty on our biodegradable soap boxes and berate people living in rubbish-strewn communities (the styrofoam box could easily have come across from a neighbouring country in the current). We can continue filling Facebook with unhelpful and unconsidered statements like the person’s I mentioned earlier. This plastics problem, I agree, is massive. It’s systemic. It’s economic. It’s disastrous. As long as there is poverty and too little education, it will be a worsening problem. I don’t know the answer, I am no expert, but I do know what it’s NOT 100% from people behaving irresponsibly and treating their earth with neglect or the creatures in it with disrespect. It’s the ill-informed and sometimes greedy Big-Decision-Makers who I’d start talking to first. They can install the systems and educate the people, gradually. The average household here can’t buy a wheelie bin nor can it contribute to an expensive rubbish removal system. The occupants are more likely to be worrying about the next meal or how they’ll afford to buy the next bag of soap powder.
The next time I gasp at the sight of rubbish on a gorgeous Asian beach I will spare an extra thought for the locals; those who wish they didn’t live among pollution and overflowing rubbish piles. People usually don’t deserve what they get…