One thing I find interesting about waste and trash is the way it’s viewed and disposed of tends to sit differently within Western culture than other parts of the world. Outside of the West, there is almost an inherent recycling culture and sense of
responsibility to reuse because waste is fundamentally a resource, either for
financial gain or simply because the materials are reusable.
I think that the most important thing is not to
make plastic the enemy, but to really reassess how we use, dispose, and reuse
it. It comes down to the old cliché of stopping to think before you buy. Can you reuse the bottle that contained the water or soda you drank earlier? The small things can make a
big difference. We can all minimize our impact if we
fundamentally change the way in which we consume. Certain
absurdities—like wrapping perishable vegetables in something that can last five
hundred years in the ground—just don’t make any sense. We
need to go full cycle, and go back to targeting packaging—either minimizing it
or getting rid of it entirely—where it is just not necessary. The biggest change we can make is to rethink our buying habits and create
more demand for positive change.
David de Rothschild, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and founder of Adventure Ecology, will depart in March 2009 on a 7,500-mile voyage from San Francisco to Sydney (see the route map) in a boat made of plastic bottles. Find out more about the expedition in a feature article by Contributing Editor Paul Kvinta ("Voyage of the Plastiki," October 2008 issue of ADVENTURE). Check in here for de Rothschild's dispatches.
- Nat Geo Expeditions