Our wasteful living will come back to bite us


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Oct 26, 2023

Our wasteful living will come back to bite us

Aren't a majority of our decisions and actions strongly influenced by how much

Aren't a majority of our decisions and actions strongly influenced by how much something costs? Consider the food we eat, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear.

It seems to me, if we are serious about trying to remove litter from our highways, we will have to face the reality that all the harping about it hasn't really made a dent in the amount of litter that make our roadsides an eyesore. Of course maybe we "don't give a damn" and just as long as we can drive down the road without ruining a tire, litter is not a problem to us.

Well, you and I know better, but if it is just a matter of dollars, then the how do get those dollars to stop the littering?

We do what a lot of states are already doing. They are charging those who litter.

No, it's not what you think. Fines won't do the job, so let's take a look at the actual litter. I'm an expert on what makes up the litter along our roadsides, since at least three times a week, I walk or sometimes jog around 3 miles on Arkansas streets and highways. It's really a no brainer to come up with a number one.

It is the one-use drinking containers. Beer cans, Styrofoam drinking cups and plastic bottles are easily the top of the litter pyramid. Now, folks, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel because numerous states have already put laws in place to make tossing a beer bottle out the window of your truck hit you in the pocketbook.

What I'm promoting is a law that all beverages be in returnable bottles or in reusable containers. It wouldn't just be beer bottles, it would be all beverage containers and these containers would require a deposit. You might remember back in the 50s, when some drink bottles did have a return deposit. When we were in college, Vertis and I actually picked up bottles around the trash pile at the trailer park where we lived to turn in. This is not just a 2023 idea.

Naturally, that would not only cut down on the beer and soft drink cans, it would drastically cut down on the Styrofoam soft drink cups. A number of states have already taken that step, and several have even banned Styrofoam.

However, mandating all drinks be in returnable for deposit bottles is not going to happen anytime soon. Our legislature is going to stay up in the bad high 40s category of states with lax environmental laws, and our roadsides will stay looking as if a trash truck on its way to the landfill had wrecked.

But I'm really just scratching the surface. I noticed Walmart stores in Colorado are now discontinuing free plastic or free paper bags. "Coming soon to a Walmart near you."

If you had to pay 10 cents of even 25 cents for a paper bag, would you consider using a returnable bag? I don't have a clue if Arkansas Walmart's will soon charge for bags, but I think they will someday.

We are all guilty of contributing to the not only roadside waste, but waste in general, especially plastic waste. If you seriously look at our shopping and throw away habits, it's easy to see we are a wasteful nation. Vertis and I are making a small difference. Not just bringing our reusable bags to the store, but we are slowly trying to live a more responsible life.

This past week we were dining at lunch, and when we ordered our ice tea, we requested either glass or reusable plastic glasses. It wasn't a problem, and we have now started to try and refuse any one use serving items when eating out, and we are also trying to quit over packed products.

Consider a simple purchase; thousands of products are in bottles in a box, and then as you check out the bottle in a box is placed in a sack. It's called over-packing. Just multiply that by a millions times several millions each day, and you will understand our wasteful society. Yes it does take energy to produce those useless boxes and sacks, and the reduction in energy is a key to reducing climate change.

Why should we care? Well, it's a fact that our wasteful standard of living is something that the rest of the world can't ever have because there are only limited resources available to live like we do. We will change, but we won't do much serious changing until the dollars it costs to continue our wasteful living become larger.

Will we see such erratic weather that the few tornadoes we get are multiplied by 10 or 20 or 30? Would we care if wide-spread tornadoes became commonplace? If we have extreme weather, where dozens of our towns are almost completely destroyed by tornadoes, would that get our attention? Did California suffering from a drought expect to get over a year of rain in two weeks?

As the Arctic and Antarctic continue to warm faster than the rest of the planet (and that is an absolute fact), the only thing we can be sure of will be erratic off-the-charts weather, caused by disrupted polar vortexes, and every part of our planet will be affected. I don't have a clue how, but I do know the records of severe weather events will become old history as the climate become steadily warmer, and we will have to spend billions upon billions to stabilize the Earth's climate.

It's a pay now or pay more later.

Richard Mason is an author and speaker. He can be reached at [email protected].

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