The world keeps generating more and more rubbish. According to a report from the World Bank, 2.010 billion tons of waste was produced on the planet in 2016, and this figure may skyrocket to 3.4 billion in 2050, that is, almost 70% more garbage in just thirty years. We are children of the use and dispose culture, and this is the price that we’re paying: we don't know what to do with so much waste.
Derf Barcker tells this story perceptively in Basura, a funny and raucous comic documenting the grim reality of what our garbage is and where it goes, through the eyes of three garbage men: "...If we were to accumulate the garbage that all the nations on the planet generate in just one year, we would have a garbage dump extending over 400 hectares and 120 meters deep, and this pile would grow to up to 650 km2 to cover our garbage needs over the next hundred years, the size of Los Angeles and four fifths of New York..."
In the kingdom of garbage, plastic rules
We invite you to make a simple observation: look around yourself and tally up how many things you see that contain plastic... So you just stopped counting, concluding “almost everything”, right?
The fact is that it is so versatile that we use it for practically everything, despite the fact that it was only discovered 150 years ago and we are only the third generation to use it on a massive scale. So much so that it has colonised the seas: 80% of the islands of floating garbage in it are made up of plastic. What’s more, it can even be found in the rocky strata of the Earth, giving rise to what scientists are already calling the Anthropocene era, or what amounts to the same thing, the era when the human footprint is visible on the planet.
Plastic has become and still is essential for progress, but it has also become a terrible threat to the planet that must be dealt with urgently. Institutions and the private sector are largely responsible for this; the EU has approved a guideline prohibiting single use plastics, but the determining factor will be the commitment by every one of us to change our lifestyle, reducing the plastic that we use in our daily life.
Bedside reading for getting rid of plastic
But is it really possible to reduce the use of plastic in our daily lives without radically changing our lifestyle? It most decidedly is, and the environmental writer and populariser José Luis Gallego gives us some ways to do it in his book Plastic Detox. In what is something like a self-help manual but focusing on sustainable life, the writer assembles 50 ideas to reduce the use of plastic in the principal areas of our daily life, as well as a brief guide for understanding some technical concepts of the world of plastics, and even a few blank pages to jot down our personal experiences in our mission to create a world less contaminated by this waste.
And the fault is not that of plastic, but the everyday overuse of it, sometimes without giving it a thought. Is it really necessary to break an orange up into slices and wrap it in plastic when nature has already provided it with an excellent wrapper? The writer told a very graphic story about the abuse of plasticon Twitter: his book was in a book store window wrapped in plastic to protect it against dust and sunlight - the ironies of life:
‘How to Give Up Plastic’ by Will McCallum is another literary alternative with an evocative title calling on us to fight against useless everyday garbage: stop drinking coffee in throw-away cups, wash our hair with shampoo bars, put clothing in the wash inside a wash bag to prevent the release of microfibres, etc. Little gestures to reduce plastic waste under the R’s of the circular economy: refuse plastic whenever we have the chance, reduce its consumption, reuse what we can and recycle everything that you can.