Allison Bukys

Monday – June 15, 2015: A word about trash…

trash-2015-05-30-05.16.58There is trash everywhere here. It’s totally gross. It’s by the side of the road, in fields, in streams, public squares, people’s yards, literally everywhere. The worst is the neighborhood garbage areas that occur frequently where people stack trash and then burn it. The smell is awful, and the thought of all the carcinogens that are released into the air is slightly terrifying. If for some strange reason you don’t think this is horribly gross, check out the page below, which tells you everything you expect: it’s really bad for people and it’s really bad for the environment.

In Cambodia though, the trash is a complete cultural norm now, and I can only imagine the amounts of trash are trash-2015-05-30-05.16.42increasing as the world produces increasingly packaged products like single serving chips. The Liger kids play Frisbee once a week on a field near school that is right next to the trash pit, and depending on the day, the field is often strewn with debris and/or smoky from the burning trash. Sometimes the Frisbee lands in the trash pit.

I include this as part of my blog not just to bring up something gross, but also as a call to action. Because the thing about having trash everywhere is that you become hyperaware of the trash that you personally produce. And in Cambodia I am able to produce so little waste with relatively little effort. There is a plastic seal on the water bottles I drink (the bottles are refilled), some of the food that I buy from the market comes in plastic grocery bags (which I don’t usually need, but my communication skills are quite poor) and there is occasionally additional packaging around meat products. If I compare this to the amount of waste I produce in the US, the difference is alarming.

For those readers who have short attention spans, I made a handy chart to highlight the US’s incredible ability to clear trash from where we can see it without really addressing other problems.

  US Cambodia
Waste Disposal Good Terrible
Recycling Poor Terrible
Lifetime of plastic FOREVER FOREVER

Sarcasm aside, we need to remember that everything we put in a trash can actually goes somewhere and most of it exists for a really long time. The recycling rate in the US is only about 35% which is pathetic for a country with our resources. According to the EPA, the US generated 164 million tons of waste that was not recycled in 2012 alone. One year. That’s seriously gross. It’s time to change.

Check out this site for a few tips to go waste-free:

Or find a more comprehensive list here: