By-products of modern life that are burying us in garbage

I recently stumbled upon a humorous article online that was too good not to share. Although amusing, it highlights the ways improvements in our technology have been causing environmental problems elsewhere. The original article can be found here, however the language used probably isn’t suitable for the work place. Hence my clean edit of the article below:


 

At the turn of the 20th century, cities across the world were quite literally being buried in horse poop. Then along came a saviour in the form of the automobile, but that prophet soon proved false when it ever so slowly suffocated us all with its petroleum-induced flatulence. It seems that the never-ending cycle of human progress has a nasty side effect of constantly threatening to bury us all under a mountain of rubbish, and it’s certainly not over yet …

 

#4. Your Old Cellphone Is Murdering the Third World

Americans replace their phones every 18 months. Europeans upgrade annually. And neither of them holds a candle to Japan where it takes just nine months for a person to deem their handheld supercomputer so primitive that it may as well have a cord and a crank start. Similar stats exist for laptops and tablets, which is great news for the companies justifying our buying of shinier ones to play the exact same game of Candy Crush. But you know who doesn’t think its great news? Mother Nature.

In 2014, the number of cellphones in use exceeded the number of people on Earth, which is … weird, right?

If it were just a question of having to wade through a sea of discarded Motorola Razrs to get to work, that would be one thing, but the physical size of these gadgets is dwarfed by the density of the harmful components they contain. Contrary to popular belief, these magical little boxes don’t actually run on fairy dust; a toxic metal cocktail fuels all that Snapchatting and Instagramming. And when old electronics aren’t properly recycled, they tend to leak those hazardous guts into our soil and water. In China, improper disposal of handheld electronics has already tainted countless tons of rice with cadmium, chronic exposure to which causes kidney, liver, and lung failure. And cancer. And osteoporosis. The list goes on, and sadly not one item on it is a superpower.

The impact of trashing a device doesn’t stop at pollution, because as soon as we commit those scarce metals to the landfill, more will have to be mined in order to make new iPhones — and the mining process for one of the rarest elements found in almost every electronic device has created a real-life sequel to Blood Diamond. Apparently, mining African rain forests for rare metals to produce high-margin consumer electronics with a life cycle of less than a year and a half isn’t a sustainable model. Who knew, right?

 

#3. Face Wash Microbeads Are Becoming Toxic Sand

You know those microbeads in your face wash? Those tiny dots that the cosmetics companies say agitate the dermoplexus to stimulate maximum elastorque or whatever? Yeah, those things are pretty great. Probably. We don’t know — We only know that microbeads are made of plain old plastic, and they wreak absolute havoc on marine life.

Your drain is just the beginning of a very long journey for those tiny spheres of petroleum byproduct. From there, they find their way to your local water treatment plant and pass right through it (remember: microbeads), eventually settling in a lake or an ocean, where they leech pollutants from the water. In 2012, a research group found that the Great Lakes were absolutely filthy with the things, containing up to 1.7 million tiny plastic bits per square mile.

“But wait,” you say, “isn’t leeching pollutants a good thing?” Well, it might be, if we could somehow retrieve all the beads and dispose of them, but that’s simply inconceivable, seeing as how these things are so small, they’re practically invisible (why do you keep forgetting? Microbeads). So once they’re full of chemicals, they settle on the bottom and act all fish-egg-like, enticing marine animals to eat them.

So the chemicals end up in the beads, the beads end up in whatever eats them, and whatever eats them basically just lives with that mistake until their bodies can rectify that problem and eject the intruders. Except it’s not over for the critters as quickly as you would hope: A study found that it takes mussels 48 days to expel the microplastics.

It’s gotten so bad that even the folks profiting from microbeads have realized the problem: Some of the bigger manufacturers have vowed to discontinue the use of microplastics by 2017. So you’d better stock up now, womenfolk and beautiful men: After 2017, who the hell knows what will agitate your dermoplexus? Robots, probably. With their uncaring claws.

 

#2. New TVs Are Creating a Lead TV Tube Overflow

Televisions used to be like kooky friends: everyone had one. But then we decided, hey, why stop at one? There’s a TV in the bedroom. And in the kitchen. And why shouldn’t we be able to see The Walking Dead whilst in the tub?

So there we all were: 20 TVs bathing us from all sides in their healthy, vitamin-D providing cathode glow, only to find that cathodes are suddenly outdated. LEDs, LCDs, plasmas, 3D, 4K — we burned through the kid’s college fund just trying to keep up with TV obsolescence. And all those old ones have to go somewhere.

Between 1980 and 2008, over 700 million tube TVs were sold in the U.S. alone. While new versions of these old-fashioned TVs were still being manufactured, many firms did a tidy business recycling and reselling the lead glass that went into them. Of course, now that the world has moved on to thinner screens, the market for toxic glass has dried right up, and recycling companies are left holding a poison-laced hot potato with no way to recoup the costs associated with detoxifying it. We’re talking stories-high mountains of lead that we don’t really know what to do with. The landfill isn’t an option anymore — there’s only so much lead you can shove into the ground before a nature spirit manifests to fight your bulldozer, and then you’ve got to deal with the Captain Planet kids all up in your grill. It’s a whole thing.

But once we figure out this whole tube business, that will be the end of it, right? Of course not! Because the LCDs most consumers replaced their tube TVs with are perfect examples of how to build something cheaply yet outrageously toxic and nigh impossible to recycle. So, while we staved off burial under a pile of not so Smart TV sets by recycling their old tubes into new TVs for decades, there won’t be any such grace period with LCDs — once an LCD screen gives up the ghost, you’re left with a big rectangle of toxic garbage. But still — look how thin it is!

 

#1. Flushable Wet Wipes Are Causing Poop Geysers

So the idea of flushable wet wipes is pretty sweet. But the problem is the very real possibility that they will drown the world in sewage. It almost happened before; London 2013 (here in Kingston-upon Thames to be precise). When residents reported that they could not flush their toilets, the intrepid sewage-spelunkers of London went underground to investigate. And guess what they found? The kind of terror that your nightmares just aren’t imaginative enough to generate, a bus-sized 15-ton wad of congealed sewer fat held together by flushable wipes and the spirit of community.

The aptly named “Fatberg” is just one of many disgusting incidents caused by the current popularity of disposable wipes. They’re also causing sewers to overflow into rivers, meaning that you could wind up swimming in the very material you so diligently cleaned off. As a result, sanitation companies have been forced to spend millions to implement new machinery that can grind the wipes down into something that’s actually … well, flushable.

 

 

Original article by: (Original article by Eric Yosomono, J. Wisniewski, Ivan Farkas, Hillery Alley March 21, 2014)

Picture Credit: Kingston Fatberg. Available at: http://bit.ly/1St4siA

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