There Is No "Away"

by Elizabeth Trinh July. 12, 2016 440 views

While being in South Africa, I noticed that “rubbish” and “waste” are more commonly used than “trash.” I had a hard time asking where the trashcans were, as South Africans seemed to not understand what I was trying to say. In the U.S., when we are done with something, we immediately throw it "away," but there is no "away." Trash always ends up somewhere, whether that is a couple of miles down the road in a landfill or an island of trash in the Pacific Ocean. Throwing things away, however, is not the first thing that people who live in the Eco-Village think about, and this is something that we should adopt. I learned that we must first rethink whether or not we need certain things. Then we should reduce, reduce, reduce before we even consider reusing and recycling. 

Last summer, I spent a little over one month excavating a Neolithic site in Catalhoyuk, Turkey. Much of what we found was the trash of the Neolithic people, and we extracted information — we judged these people — from what they threw away. The large mound in the first photo below is a landfill that is covered by dirt. When the mound was a location of active, unregulated dumping, people lived along the edges and collected trash to make a living. The second photo below depicts a more regulated landfill that abides by the guidelines set forth by the government. The two landfills are adjacent to each other, and there was no apparent odor of trash at either. Ruenda Loots, who guided us on Thursday as we visited the Stellenbosch Landfill, informed us that our trash does not just disappear; we do not simply throw things away. In 500 or 1,000 years, when future archaeologists excavate our remains, what will they think about our trash? What does our trash say about us? Unfortunately, as it stands, I do not know if there will be a future to learn about our present.

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