It's something we really don't really think much about. When we have something to discard, we look for one of these:
Then our minds move on to something else. Of course, some of us try to recycle and then consider what can be recycled and what cannot. In that case, we look for these:
Then we've done our jobs and can move on. There's a problem, though. The things we no longer want don't disappear, even when we recycle. Sometimes the demand for recycled materials is lower than the supply of recycled materials. Sometimes the economy cannot support the market and areas that have recycling programs cannot find a taker for the items that have been recycled. According to this 2008 article in The Telegraph, the market for recyclables in the United States has crashed. Thus, the items that have been carefully washed and sorted into bins end up going where the rest of our refuse goes.
In case you weren't aware, here are a few places our discards end up:
Those of us who live in wealthy countries can make it appear as if our trash disappears. We can ship it overseas, to third world countries that need the meager amount of money that is paid to make our problem vanish. In those countries, our trash is heaped into mountains in impoverished communities where people, including children, are exposed to the toxins produced by the decaying garbage. Many of these people make a living out of picking through these festering piles of rot:
You see, our things don't disappear; they have to go somewhere. Sometimes we just pass our problems on to the less fortunate. It's a fact of life that possessions wear out, break, become obsolete. However, although we cannot eliminate this problem, we can alleviate it. We don't need to shop unnecessarily. We need to carefully think through our purchases, distinguish needs from wants, and demand that those items we do purchase are well made and built to last.
As I read about the rampant consumerism in the United States and elsewhere, I realize that at some point we are going to run out of places to hide our excesses. We're behaving much like the joke about the woman who is addicted to shopping and hides her purchases from her husband by putting them in the back of her overstuffed closet. The problem is, that closet is going to be full some day. Ultimately, it will eventually all come back to haunt us. And then what?