Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Burn, Bury or Ditch

I received a text message from Ryan this morning asking me whether she should burn, bury or ditch her trash. I was shocked and appalled to find out she was even considering any of the options, especially since she is one of the most environmentally conscious people I know. If you know her at all, you'll know that she single-handed founded the Recycling Club and the Environmental club at her college and has been known to hold "Eco-parties." Yes, she is a nerd, but she's my sister and I love her ;) Anyway, for those who don't know yet (and have yet to read the previous posts on this blog) Ryan is in Kenya on a Peace Corps mission. I'm pretty there is not a whole lot of indoor plumbing...  so its safe to assume there isn't Thursday morning trash pick up in matching blue bins and a thriving recycling program. More likely you wake up to a wild hog rummaging through your garbage. So what is a environmentally conscious girl to do when your living on a wild life refuge that doesn't even have an accessible road? The rest of the village either burns the trash -- putting toxins in the air, buries the trash -- ensuring their kids will grow up on a landfill, literally, or they ditch it -- out of sight, out of mind.. right? A similar discussion was highlighted in the New York Times: Should the US Burn or Bury Its Trash?

I am leaning towards the burning idea though here are some downsides:

 But it's quite obvious leaving it there, whether in your own yard or somewhere else on the nature preserve on which she lives, is equally bad if not worse. What would you do? Would love your suggestions!!


Alisan said...

Interesting question!! I'm liking this post. So in my opinion and what I've learned with my degree, yes, burning does real a lot of toxins and contribute to overall air pollution. However, certain products are worse than others in terms of how dangerous or how much toxic chemicals they release. Anything that is not organic, like plastic, shouldn't be burned. But if its stuff like paper, that would be less harmful. So anything that shouldn't be burned would be better off buried. But for some products, obviously food but also if they happen to use any products that are corn or soy based, can be composted! And that would be best environmentally and health-wise. Also, it works as an excellent fertilizer! Hope my little input helps :) Oh and that being said, I would say just leaving the trash unburned and unburied is probably not any less environmentally friendly, but it is certainly an eyesore and maybe even a safety hazard in case there are sharp things that people could step on!

Paul Rockower said...

What about setting up a village recycling program? If she is already experienced at organizing such things, why not have an eco-party? Perhaps I am being culturally relativistic when I say Ryan adopting their norms are less beneficial than Ryan teaching them what she knows.

Julie said...

I agree with the other two. Compost what you can. Burn the less harmful things and that leaves more room in the ground to bury the rest. Oh and reuse what you can for as long as you can. And then you can spread the word to everyone else to do the same!!

Ryan Keith said...

Thanks for the advice. It kills me seeing the garbage pile up everywhere. Every acacia bush has plastic bags stuck in it and every home has a burn pit. I actually have very little garbage because I do recycle what I can. I have tons of plastic bags and plastic containers that I use as leftover dishes. In a society that does not have packaged anything, it is pretty easy to do composting. I am holding on to the plastic wrappers (which I only get from the food sent from America) because I can't bring myself to throw it outside. I have found a way to use cardboard as shelving and to build cabinets in my house, so that is recycled too. And for those of you wondering, I am officially head of the environmental club at my secondary school and I am going to try to discourage the burning of plastics as my first job. Wish me luck!