He Wrote Another Trashy Column

by Curt Kovener

Almost every Tuesday is trash pick up day in Crothersville as well as a number of other communities. Do ask me why Tuesday seems to be universal trash day. I don’t know.
But we are a trashy people. From the dawn of civilization we have been trashy people. But those early pre-historic trash heaps are now archeological digs. Which ought to give us pause to think about what all we are putting into our landfills.
For instance, did you know…
•The oldest trash heaps, called middens, are in South Africa and contain shells roughly 140,000 years old. Middens-which may also include bones, charcoal, feces, and pottery shards-provide much of what we know about ancient diet and lifestyle.
•In 500 B.C. Athens created the first municipal dump, requiring trash to be disposed of at least a mile from city walls.
•Today Americans generate 472 billion pounds of trash every year, including 96 billion pounds of food-more than 300 pounds per person. And that’s only about 2 percent of the total waste stream. The rest is industrial refuse, including mine tailings, agricultural waste, construction debris, and exotics like “pickle liquor,” an acid solution used to clean steel.
•One quart of motor oil, improperly disposed of, can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. So recycle your old oil or you’ll eventually be drinking it.
•Each year, consumers in the United States spread 300 million pounds of chemical insecticides, including compounds that the EPA says may impair the nervous system, disrupt hormones in the body, or cause cancer. Yet people worry about MSG in Chinese food.
•Landfills are the No. 1 human-generated source of methane, belching 7 million tons into the atmosphere each year.
•Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island in New York, which closed in 2001, is the world’s largest city dump. Covering about 2,200 acres, it is one of 1,767 landfills in the United States.
•In 1996 there were three deaths at a transfer and recycling center in Brooklyn. Three years later, a severed human head showed up on a conveyor belt at the same facility.
•British inventor Peter Durand patented the tin can in 1810. And puzzlingly much later, Ezra Warner of Connecticut patented the first can opener in 1858. Americans throw away about 50 billion aluminum cans each year. If you _dug up all the cans discarded in the past 30 years, they’d be worth nearly _$20 billion.
•In 2002 marine researcher Charles Moore surveyed 500 square miles of the North Pacific and found 10 pounds of floating plastic for every pound of living plankton in the water.
•But we’re not the only ones making a mess: Pack rats generate mounds made of sticks, plant fragments, dung, and rocks, cemented together with their own urine. These rodent trash heaps can last up to 40,000 years.
So rather than toss it all away, maybe we all ought to recycle more lest some alien life force centuries from now digs up trash with your mailing address on it and wonders “What were they thinking?”