The Garbage Ballgame
Like a ball in play, garbage has been thrown back and forth between cities, states, and nations.
The goal of the game: pass it on.
Nobody wants to get stuck with it, and keeping it in one’s hands causes an overflow of problems. Those who can afford it pay for the chance to pass it on. Once it has been taken care off, or at least is visually non-existent, another ball comes into play. And another. And another still.
The throwaway economy is creating too much for too low a price. Waste management is also impressively efficient in collecting trash, so that garbage bins are emptied as fast as they are filled. The result is an increasing garbage flow, especially but not limited to developed nations.
At first, local landfills are adequate and can do the job. Then they are shut down and suddenly truckloads of trash have nowhere to go. Recycling efforts are seldom centralized, and landfill diversion tactics are generally unsuccessful or ineffective in handling a whole city’s worth of trash. This is where the garbage ballgame begins.
The player with the ball looks for someone who will take the ball off their hands.
This can be as easy as transporting truckloads of trash to a neighboring city or state a couple of hundred miles away, as is the case with New York and other states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc.)
This works well for a few passes, until the receiving player finds themselves in a similar quandary. Then the players who received the balls start looking for someone else to pass it on, too. Generally what happens is the distance gets longer between the two players, such as the case with Toronto and London, Ontario (260 miles, roundtrip). By the way, the ball gets passed by trucks with their share of carbon emissions over all those miles, not to mention other things like congestion, toxic pollution, etc. The ball gets passed between players with a fair amount of distance between them.
This works until, well, even the fair-distance players have their hands full, too. Then the real hardcore game begins. The players who paid money before now truly play it rich and hurl the ball to reach even farther players in the field. The ball now gets sent through ships across oceans and international borders. Needless to say, nobody knows if parts of the ball got left behind in the ocean, too. When the ball is caught by the faraway players, they have mixed reactions. Some take the ball apart, as with China’s Guiyu region or Ghana’s Agbogbloshie area where residents may use computer circuit boards over coal fires or cannibalize the waste for parts. Others, like Brazil’s Sao Paulo, are less than happy about it and protest. Some might even throw the ball back to the original player. The game begins again, only this time with quiet desperation as the ball stays in place longer and poses environmental and health risks each passing moment.
Each time the ball is successfully passed, another one comes almost immediately into play.
The irony is, the game isn’t won by who passed the highest number of balls or who threw it over the longest distance.
The game is won when a player doesn’t have any ball to pass at all. Centralized, well managed recycling programs, waste reduction policies, and other efforts to counter the throwaway mindset are the skills that are crucial to beating the garbage ballgame more than quick thinking and coordination skills. How about you and your city/state/country? Are you a great garbage ballgame player?
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Ed Yourdon on Flickr.
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