I feel a pang of guilt every time I use my trash can at home (or anywhere, for that matter). As I drop something into the container, I think about how wasteful our culture is. Each item I discard represents something that was once of value but is now worthless and will join the millions and billions of other useless items that have been used up. Each item often represents finite resources that are being used up for our convenience, not always out of necessity.
I recently had a conversation with someone who had briefly done some missionary work in Russia a few years ago. She told me how shocking (to her and the rest of her group) it was that the Russian women they came in contact with had never seen nor heard of paper plates. Her group supplied them with some disposable goods and they discovered the women were washing them! The American reaction to this was to tell them to stop doing it and to just throw everything away.
At this point, I tried to keep my jaw from dropping to the ground as I thought, what is wrong with washing reusable plates and why are we (Americans) introducing such an unsustainable practice to this culture? People in poverty do not need to get into the habit of disposables. While it may be good for the companies that manufacture such goods, it is certainly bad for the Russian (and other) people. When it is a struggle to feed the children (this was in an orphanage), how on earth are they to find the resources to pay for disposable goods? And once the plates, cups, and utensils are used, where will they go? Who will pay for the expanded infrastructure to handle the extra garbage that will be generated?
As I close the cabinet door where I keep my kitchen trash can, so many more questions and feelings come to the surface. Why has our world come to this? Why has it become the norm to have so much trash? Why don't we think about where it all goes? Why aren't more of us thinking about alternatives? Call me crazy, but it seems there has got to be a better way to do life.
(Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1218054)