Rethink disposables

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“Compostables” are disposable, there is no getting around it. The answer is to use less in the first place and choose durable items that you can use again and again not one-way, so-called disposables, even if they are claimed to be compostable.

The compostable bit is also a rather misleading term as those “compostables” do not compost in the domestic composting environment but require superheated commercial composting facilities to actually “compost”. Which also means that those disposable products, in spite of being able, to some degree, being disposed off and composted in such facilities those selfsame facilities do not exist everywhere and they do require a great deal of energy.

Thus, where those facilities do not exist, and in many cases anyway, as they would require special separation from other disposables thrown into the trash, they end up in landfill sites and, while they may decompose in said landfill sites they are still a problem, and in addition to that a great many so-called “compostable” plastic items are not truly compostable.

The only answer to this problem is to go reusable in everything, your travel mug, your water bottle, your cutlery. Use reusable napkins also and everything else in between. And please, if you have a picnic in a park or in the woods please take your reusable cutlery, etc., home with you and do not simply leave it laying about the place, not even in the litter bin, as that really defeats the object.

However, in my line of work as a park ranger I find this almost every time after there has been a picnic. There is a kitchen knife, a good and expensive one even, that has been left behind, apparently on purpose, because the owners just could not be bothered to take it back home, or some Tupperware, plastic picnic plates (of the reusable kind), real cutlery, etc. In some instances they seem to have just been bought at IKEA or such and then discarded on site. And, as said, this can be encountered at an almost daily basis when there have been picnics. The mind boggles. Either those people have too much money or they just do not care or both.

What most people appear not to understand when they use the term “throwing something away” that there is no such place as “away” as far as waste and refuse are concerned. And, let us return to “compostables” once again, there is no such thing as “compostable plastic”, regardless of what manufacturers, advertisers and PR people may wish to tell us; at least not in the way that most people on the street understand composting and compostable. Those items are, and remain, disposables and we must turn our back to them for the sake of the Planet and our wallets.

© 2016