Midcoast Green Collaborative Forum

June 14, 2008

Sustainability Post #18 — Trash Sins.

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , — Topher @ 11:31 pm

In the arguments for and against various recycling efforts, many people lose sight of the big picture.  Here are what I think of as what must be most avoided.

1. Poisoning.  Taking a benign substance and mixing it with a toxic, poisonous, or radioactive substance.  This basically multiples the amount of poisons that need to be contained, and kept away from food, water and other elements of the environment.

2. Dispersal.  Take a pound of gold, grind it into dust and release it out of a plane.   This is taking a valuable thing and spreading it so thinly that getting anymore value out of it is basically impossible.

3. Unpurifying.  A large amount of energy and effort goes into making pure substances.  Mixing those up with other things in ways difficult to reverse, requires that energy to be respent or wastes it entirely.  This is the  problem with crushing cars.

4. Removing from the life cycle.  Life is the food for life.  Taking the remains of a living thing and making such that it will never become life again is a waste.  Note that carbon sequestering is a temporary exception to this rule.

5. Not forward thinking.  Just because we don’t currently have a use for a thing or substance, does not mean that we never will.   There is no such thing as a ‘waste’ product.

With these in mind, dumping stuff into a landfill isn’t inherently bad, only the extent to which the above are present or avoided is what matters.  A landfill can be a poison filled mess, or a stockpile of raw materials depending on how it is done.



  1. Also we need to make sure our new technologies are sustainable. I am talking about the auto sector. They came up with hybrid cars as a solution to oil shortage but the materials required for the battery are rare so that brings us back to the original problem. I would like to get your views on our corporate blog on sustainability.

    Comment by aditya — June 17, 2008 @ 7:07 am

  2. Well I hardly think hybrid cars are a solution, since they take oil as well. But there are battery technologies which don’t take rare materials, Lead-acid and are fully recyclable, and the most recycled item in the country. However rarity isn’t as much a concern for me, as long as none of the above are present, the rare substances can be recycled. Extreme rarity would be a problem, if there isn’t enough to make all we need. In fact, nothing is sustainable, rare or not, if it isn’t in a cycle.

    Where can I find your corporate blog?

    Comment by Topher — June 17, 2008 @ 8:47 am

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