When I walked out of Wegman’s in Rochester, New York, last week, a man and his two sons walked in with four large garbage bags filled with cans and bottles; each bag had roughly eighty or so in them. Inside the store are large machines into which they were about to dump the bags and receive five cents for each can or bottle. That’s about $20. And I don’t know they didn’t have more in their truck. Everyone in the area saves them or finds them, hauls them to the local market and recycles them and has enough money to buy some groceries or gas. Perhaps this man brought the boys for ice cream since it was ninety degrees out and he had an extra twenty.
I love this. I am disappointed this wasn’t available when I was in college just to the southeast of there. Nowadays in that town, the local Topps Market has the same setup, but back when I was in school, on any given morning the garbage bins in my dorm were overflowing with beer bottles and cans. Since I was always awake hours before my dormmates and knowing well the intake capabilities of the others and the party-reputation of the university, I’m confident I could have funded my education. Why why why why why doesn’t every single state do this?
But this blog is about nature, so let’s get right to it:
Last year this country threw away 1 million tons—TONS—of aluminum cans and packaging, and about thirty-six billion cans landed in landfills. That’s enough to—this is insane—that’s enough to completely rebuild the entire commercial air fleet four times over. Let that hang there for a moment.
A can in the ocean has a longer life expectancy than a human, about eighty to one hundred years. And during that entire time it releases toxic agents into the water that kill fish and damage the environment enough to alter migration patterns, infect our food, and poison the larger sea animals that accidently ingest these cans tossed by lazy ass, howl at the moon stupid people who can’t simply drop them in a recycling bin. Or better yet if they live in such a state, collect the cans and make some money.
This is Coors fault.
They introduced the aluminum can in 1959. Tin cans date back to about 1810, patented by Peter Durand, and those also last a century in the ocean, and can quickly disease and kill sea life both through ingestion and physical disabling, which is common with sea turtles and sea bird life. Off of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the south of here, had Orville or Wilber celebrated that first flight with a tin can filled with Stillhouse Moonshine, and tossed that empty container into the waters off the Outer Banks, it could still be there.
And that’s just cans. Plastic bottles win for demonstrating to aliens who land here in 2525 that we are one selfish species. If I walk to the river tonight drinking a bottle of Dasani and when I get there, throw it as far as I can into the Rappahannock, if it first doesn’t get caught in the mouth of a dolphin or cut the fin of a stingray, it will still be there when those ET’s land on Parrot Island and wade to shore five hundred years from now.
Wade? Ha! They will be able to simply walk across the trash since our human race throws into the ocean every single year enough plastic to make 800 billion—EIGHT HUNDRED BILLION—bottles. Every year. And that’s just the ocean bound bottles; that doesn’t include the thirty-five billion bottles in landfills every year.
Okay—I did the math for you. If those were bottles and I got my son to put them all in bags and bring them to the machine at Wegman’s in Rochester, he’d walk out with $40 BILLION dollars.
Gone. Trashed. Forty Billion Dollars tossed into the surf every single year, just in plastic.
Stop it. Please, on behalf of all humans who think about posterity, about beauty, about the breaching of whales and the graceful rise of a dolphin or the glide of the osprey, cormorants and gulls; on behalf of those of us who understand the toxins being released which destroy the oxygen and compromise the very balance of nature, please, use a reusable bottle. How hard is it? You can even get one with your name on it, or a picture of your favorite Muppet.
When I was still in single digits, Earth Day started, and I remember walking with my class on the property at East Lake Elementary School picking up trash. And it was the sixties, so we already had peace and love and nature and all that on our minds from the songs and signs of the times, so honestly, we thought we were going to grow up and live in a trash-free world of peace.
Not so much.
This place is a toilet. People throw trash out of windows because it’s going to destroy their very soul to drop it in a can at the next gas station or when they get home. People can’t possibly carry canvas bags into Wegmans to shop! “I gotta carry stuff OUT of the store; you want me to carry stuff IN as well! Hell no!”
The planet is having a hard time breathing, and it is absolutely our fault, and karma being what it is, we’re going to pay the price for it. Now, we also can cure this pandemic. It doesn’t take a group effort; no one needs to subscribe to any agency or get a vaccine. Just stop throwing your crap out the window. Use a reusable bag to carry groceries and a reusable bottle to drink out of. That’s it.
Feel free to recycle this blog post to those you know, I mean you absolutely know, are still carrying food to the car in plastic bags.
The osprey thank you.