We have been living with mass production and consumption since the industrial revolution. With the development of science, we have made simple and efficient things like disposable products. As a result, a lot of trash has been produced which we are responsible for. Even now, machines are constantly running, and countless disposable items are being produced and thrown away. Now let's face some uncomfortable truths.
● Nanjido, A Land Sacrificed by Waste of Humans
Do you know Nanjido? Nanjido was an island on a branch of the Han River in Seoul, Korea. As Korea became urbanized, many people flocked to Seoul, and a lot of trash was produced. So, in 1973, the Seoul Metropolitan Government created this island as an official landfill. Therefore, Nanjido, which previously had beautiful reeds, became a smelly place with a 95-meter-long trash mountain. It was closed in 1993, but environmental pollutants were released continuously. Later, Nanjido was turned into a park due to the efforts of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Therefore, we could say that Nanjido is a symbol of trash history in Korea.
● The Reality of Garbage We Have Encountered
According to the World Bank's report, the world's garbage output will rise to 3.4 billion tons by 2050. Recently, the fact that plastic exposed to sunlight releases greenhouse gases was confirmed and these kinds of gases, in the end, lead to global warming. According to the Statistics Korea data in 2016, Korea ranks first in terms of per capita plastic consumption. In addition, a big trash problem emerged in the Spring of 2018, which was caused by China's refusal to import trash. China had earned money by importing and processing recycled wastes. However, China decided to cut this income due to environmental pollution problems. Therefore, countries that used to export trash to China are accumulating garbage now. Trash formerly exported to China is now going to Taiwan, and the issue of waste disposal is becoming a global problem.
● Breaks Apart, Brings Greater Risk
Microplastic is a piece of plastic, that has a size less than 5 millimeters. Microplastic is formed when plastic waste is split. It is so small that it enters a river without being filtered by the sewer facility. Moreover, microplastic was recently found in bottled water. Plastic has a huge effect on the ocean’s ecosystem. The creatures living in the ocean eat these plastic particles, which are subsequently accumulated inside their bodies. Eventually humans, the top food chain, are affected by the microplastics as well.
Do you feel the seriousness of this situation? The accumulation of garbage is becoming a serious disaster, and we will suffer the consequences. Our food is also influenced a lot by plastic. The dead albatross with the stomach full of plastic on the news recently could be our future self. If you love the Earth and yourself, you should pay more attention to this problem. So, let's take a look at the main culprits of this problem.
● The Representative Troublemaker: Disposable Products
1) Paper cup
When you think of a paper cup, you might think “It’s just a cup made of paper! Will it really cause harm to our nature?” Paper cups can be a problem because most of them are coated with substances such as polyethylene, which delays the decomposition of paper and makes it hard to recycle because they become more durable in water. This is the reason why paper cups take 20 years to rot. It is much longer compared to normal paper which rots within two to five years.
-Korea: Famous and sizable companies such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and A Twosome Place enforced tumbler affirmative action, which gives 10% discount to a customer who brings a tumbler with them.
When we receive training or informational presentations related to the polluted environment, we see pictures like turtles with plastic straws stuck in their noses. .Accidents like this happen because plastic straws (including many plastic disposable products like forks, spoons, and dishes) take almost 50 to 80 years until they decompose. Furthermore, colored plastic containers are more difficult to recycle, so many companies prefer using a new one rather than recycling.
-UK: McDonalds in the UK decided to impose the use of paper straws starting from September 2018. Also, the British government is suggesting companies not use plastic straws and cotton swabs.
3) Vinyl bags
Vinyl bags are very common in everyday lives. But they harm our nature in a bad way because they take over 100 years until they decompose. Furthermore, if the bag is wet, it is much harder to recycle. Because it is very cheap compared to its impact on nature, it is traded almost for free. The idea that these bags are so cheap causes uneducated people to thoughtlessly use these vinyl bags, sometimes double bagging their items, though it’s not necessary, causing more damage to our environment.
This can make vinyl bags used thoughtlessly and makes people double bag their items, even it is unneeded.
-Kenya: Kenya banned vinyl bags in 2017 because many animals in Kenya had suffocated to death. If you use vinyl bags in Kenya, you can face up to two years in prison. Moreover, many countries, and cities including Italy, Belgium, and Morocco are commending it.
Styrofoam with its excellent insulation property is the most harmful product to the environment. It takes nearly 500 years until it decomposes, and it is so light that it floats over oceans. It is also very difficult to recycle.
-United States: New York City decided to totally ban Styrofoam containers starting in January, 2019.
● Recycle: Shield for The Attack of Disposable Products
Recycling is the key to reducing the attack of disposable products. It seems like it’s just nothing, but this small action can change the world.
In the case of Australia, they have introduced an automated recycling machine, which can even earn money. Return and Earn, which is the name of the policy, was first introduced in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, on December 1, 2017. When you bring washed empty cans and bottles, you can earn 10 cents per bottle. The machine will offer you three selections: cash vouchers, electronic payment, or donation. But always remember that bottles without the specific recycle label can’t be exchanged for money. In addition, in Japan, labels on disposable bottles are produced to tear off easily, which makes recycling more convenient.
Compared to these two foreign cases, we can find two recycling problems in Korea. First, the reason Korea is having trouble recycling is that there are too many alien substances inside. Second, the labels on the bottle in Korea are attached with glue, which is hard to detach. Therefore, we always have to be aware of these.
● Know How to Recycle - Tips for Separating Waste
1. Paper Pack -Make sure to wash and empty the inside and dispose of it with general papers.
※ If there is no recycling bin, separate them from general papers and dispose of them with can or glass bottles
2. Bottles and the rest - Remove the lid and empty the inside.
※ Empty bottle can be redeemed for a small deposit in retail stores
3. Steel Can
Aluminum Can -Empty the inside and crush it if possible.
-Do not put alien substances such as cigarette butts inside.
4. Butane or Pesticide -Make a hole and empty it.
5. Plastic Containers made with PET, PVC, PE, PP, PS, PSP and Packing Materials -Empty the inside and remove lid made with other materials and attached trademarks and press it if possible
-Be careful not to scatter vinyl or film packing.
6. Styrofoam Buffer
-Packing materials used in electronics buffer
-Foam-styrene used to pack meat, agricultural and marine products -Packing materials used in electronics buffer needs to be returned to shop you have purchased
-Empty the inside and remove attached trademarks and wash it if it is dirty
-Foam-styrene coated with other materials and dirty ones are excluded
● DIY with Recycling Products
We can easily find plastic bottles or broken clocks near us. They are rarely used, but we are reluctant to throw them away. We would like to introduce you to DIY recycled products made with these rogue items.
<Under the Sea, Under the Pen>
Materials: two different sized plastic bottles, saw, glue gun, decorations
1) First, cut the smaller sized bottle
2) Put the small bottle into the bigger bottle and measure how much needs cutting and then cut
3) Put color sand and decorations inside the big bottle and pour water
4) Adjust the small bottle to the bigger one by glue gunning it together
5) Put clay to disguise the glue and decorate
Materials: paper plate, an analog clock not used anymore
1) Make a whole in the middle of the paper plate
2) Cut the paper plate in half
3) Put the paper plate and clock together
4) Tape up the plate to the clock
5) Put the battery in the clock
Every year, 750 million tons of trash is produced by the world’s activities. Also, the USA and China contribute 500 million tons. Furthermore, when you look into waste emission per capita, Korea rated 929.9g. It is a very low figure compared to OECD average (1,425g). However, considering the fact that if half of Korea’s waste can be recycled, we need to revisit our recycling policies. If you want to do more than that, you should avoid using disposable produces so that companies producing them will reduce their production levels.