Date June 23, 2008

We’re not used to seeing huge heaps of trash piled up high in spanking-clean Singapore. Most of us have no idea where our garbage goes. Because we don’t actually take out the trash (if we live in apartments most of us have a private chute) and the garbage collectors come practically everyday, it’s difficult to understand the phenomenal amount of trash each of us consumes on a daily basis, and then, in a lifetime.

In Singapore we don’t have dump sites, which are highly unsightly. While there are some dump yards for specific types of waste like construction waste and waste metal, they are isolated at the very corners of our little island, hidden from the discriminate eyes of residents and tourists. It almost seems a miracle that a country so densely populated and with such little land can find a solution to its growing amounts of waste.

So where does all the trash go in land-scarce Singapore. In the sea of course. But it’s very well managed. State of the art seawalls keep the incinerated and processed trash (the garbage isn’t dumped as it is) inside the oceanic landfill. It also keeps the ocean out, which is very important.

But our resources are finite. There’s only so much ocean and land we can fill. However, our appetite for consumption is limitless. On average, products are disposed within six months of their purchase. We have to invent more, and new ingenious ways of looking after our trash. Because if you ignore your trash, it’s going to come back and haunt you.

This article, first featured in The Ecologist magazine discusses how “Old plastic rubbish doesn’t die ­ it just gets tossed away in far-off places that we rarely get to see. Daisy Dumas assesses its impact on the world’s largest floating landfill ­ the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

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