“Benjamin Franklin said there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. But I’d like to add a third certainty: trash. And while some in this room might want to discuss reducing taxes, I want to talk about reducing trash.” – Ruth Ann Minner
This quotation got me thinking – are death, taxes and trash all inevitable? Death certainly is, although we may prolong our span of life in the future. Taxes are, until we find another way of running our economies. What about trash?
For the world to be trash free we would have to change a few things. Firstly, we would have to have a far more equal society where everyone had access to the latest innovations. It would not help for the elite to live in a trash free world while the vast majority still lived with trash. Inevitably their trash would end up in the oceans and litter the landscape. So a world in which we are all equal for a start.
To be trash free, we need to look at reducing the income gap
As part of this we would need to have a different, non-polluting source of energy. This would eradicate power generation stations, power cables, petrol pumps and cars. Electric cars will solve part of the problem but we would still be left with roads, flyovers and traffic lights, all of which are part of an infrastructure which is old and would have to be dismantled creating trash.
Commerce and industry would have to work differently. We would need to find a way of protecting all industrial and other items which need to be moved around. Imagine moving a work of art or an aircraft engine without packaging to protect it. Then there is the small matter of the clothes and toys.
Consumers would have to find a way of buying their goods without the need for packaging. This would need very clever marketers and a change of aspiration and lifestyle choices. It would also require a massive mind shift. Consumers may be prepared to give up a lot of things for the sake of not polluting the environment. If, however, this required consumers to give up personal creature comforts one could expect a strong push back.
Marketers should start looking at being more recycling aware, products without packaging perhaps?
Food would be a problem for a different reason – hygiene. At some stage we will buy all our food from factories where steaks are grown to order without the need to torture animals and vegetables are grown without any wastage. Farmers would have to be retrained and the land that has been cultivated would have to be reinstated.
Likewise we would no longer need to fish the oceans so we could eradicate the ship building industry and those who make a living off the sea. Boats would henceforth be for pleasure only.
Most importantly if we could find a way of recycling all products we would have closed the loop. This includes all garments which would require a different material, one which could be recycled. And all products would need to be recyclable as well. 3D printing is a start but will be a while before we each have one and can print whatever we need as long as it is recyclable.
All of this may sound daunting but it is not impossible. The question is when? We have made a start and I think technology will surprise us with the speed at which it can find solutions. The real challenge – I believe – will be the intangible changes: the change in mindset and development of mankind as a whole.
We will need to find other ways of resolving our differences and all agree on an egalitarian society. This would probably mean a world without nations and borders. If we look back to where mankind has come from it is possible but there are some serious issues to be resolved first: cultures and religion being just two of them. Quality education and an end to war would be pre-requisites to achieving this.
All in all I think it is doable and not necessarily inevitable that we live with trash. I just can’t imagine when. And until that day we need to keep recycling.