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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

What a Waste

I vividly remember a nasty chore I had as an eight-year-old kid. Buried in the ground outside the kitchen door was a three-gallon metal garbage pail into which we tossed daily kitchen scraps. Each week I had to haul it out of its burrow, sometimes crawling with maggots, and set it on the curb for collection.

When I heard the low rumble of the local pig farmer’s old flatbed truck I would run out to watch him perform his special circus act. As both driver and collector, he would hop out of his slowly creeping truck clad in rubber boats with a cigar clamped in the corner of his mouth. He always smiled at me and offered up a hearty hello as he slopped his free food into the back of the ladened truck. The steaming pile of decomposing food scraps meant that his pigs, the ultimate consumers, would eat for a week. I marveled as his unstoppable routine continued all the way down the street.

Doubtless an open truck on such a mission today would not meet regulations for health and safety, but in simpler times it made sense. Nothing was wasted and useful food was shared. Since Father always supported local businesses we often bought our bacon from the same farmer, completing the sustainable cycle.

Today garbage disposals digest much of America’s kitchen scraps, becoming part of the residential waste stream flowing to municipal treatment facilities. Processing requires thousands of gallons of water that then must be chemically cleaned before being returned to the global water cycle. Still, 96 percent of the 36 million tons of U.S. food waste generated in 2011 went into landfills or incinerators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In landfills it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas polluting our atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Incineration is somewhat better.

I can’t help wondering what the jolly pig farmer would think of it all. But I can imagine his succinct: “What a waste.”

Christine MacDonald’s feature article, “Easing Earth’s Rising Fever,” on page 16, addresses our existing global warming predicament. We are facing an alarming period in Earth’s geological history in which each of us, wittingly or not, is playing a role. The escalating demands on resources are contributing to current climate change and putting the skills of our best scientists to the test in the urgent search for sustainable solutions.

I suspect we all consume more resources than is wise. Life has generally been good in America for the last 50 years; we enjoy many privileges. Yet economic growth is still unwisely based on a programmed need for more stuff. Mega-malls and superstores seem to me as a breeding ground for future yard sales. How many things do we really need?

Pig trucks collecting kitchen scraps may not suit folks, but maybe it’s one example of a sustainable model. As we all seek to reduce, reuse and recycle may we again heed these bywords from World War II, another era that demanded a conscious citizenry.

Use it up... wear it out... make it do... or do without,

Donald H Moore, Publisher

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