All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from a Duck

Archive for January, 2013

Let’s Talk Trash

Monday, January 7th, 2013

When it comes to talk’n trash I think Jean-Michel Cousteau says it best:

“The world’s water is our life support system. We’re all connected to the ocean no matter where we live, and completely depend on its health for our own health. All water, whether it is salt or fresh water, is connected because the ocean’s water evaporates into the atmosphere, becomes snow on the mountains, melts and trickles down the mountains into rivers and streams and is then carried back into the ocean. And it arrives there with everything toxic that we put into it, because we continue to use the ocean as a garbage can.”

If you need hard evidence that supports the argument that the amount of trash humans are now generating is jeopardizing our very existence, take a look at the following YouTube video:

I think it’s pretty safe to say that our trash is killing us. A recent 7-year study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that every single freshwater fish tested in 291 freshwater streams across the U.S. was contaminated with mercury. Just as shocking, the study found that 25% of the fish tested were contaminated at levels too high for human consumption.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that we can do about pollution that has occurred in the past. Other than erecting a floating recycling plant in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and expanding local events dedicated to cleaning up trash that accumulates on beaches, rivers, streams (as well as all the litter strewn along our streets and highways), we’re just going to have to wait for the billions of tons of crap that we’ve already tossed into the environment to degrade – which for some items is going to be a long, long, long wait. For example, plastic bottles take 40–450 years to degrade; aluminum cans 200-500 years; plastic bags 10-20 years; and XPS foam cups … well, they’re non-biodegradable so we’re literally going to have to wait forever.

So as an owner or manager (or employee) of a business, what can your organization do to become part of the solution? The first step is to get to know your company’s waste stream. There are a wide variety of assessment templates and case studies to be found on the Internet to support your work. If you are not ready to dumpster dive yourself, reach out to your local college or university and discuss starting a waste assessment service. If that is not an option, then look to your local nonprofit or consulting community. Remember, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it, so a detailed waste audit that allows you to understand the true volume, make-up, source, destination and impacts of your waste stream is a must if you truly want to manage (reduce, recycle, eliminate) your company’s waste.

You say you have customers to take care of, your competitors are breathing down your neck and you are simply too busy to study your waste stream? Then at a minimum please do this – U.S. businesses dump 14 million to 20 million PCs each year. Many laptops have a small fluorescent lamp in the screen that contains mercury, or use lithium ion rechargeable batteries. Circuit boards can also include mercury, lead and cadmium. Older CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors–the big, bulky ones that look like TVs–contain lead and sometimes arsenic. LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors don’t have the same problems as their CRT counterparts but can contain lead and other harmful chemicals in their power supplies. So when it’s time to switch out your old computers please either recycle the old ones by contacting Computers With Causes (or a similar organization), or dispose of them properly by contacting PC Disposal (this is a nationwide service … you might want to contact a certified local e-waste disposal company).