Each year, we throw away billions of plastic bags, 200 billion plastic bottles, and 58 billion throwaway cans. These end up in landfills and the oceans, washing up on what used to be sandy beaches that have now become dumping grounds. For example, Lebanon has a mountain of trash on a beach that is 40 meters high. A toxic dump in Yorkshire, England is 62 meters in height. Four hundred landfills in China, which contain heavy metal, radioactive substances, and synthetic plastics, have reached capacity.
The problems with landfills are many. Government agencies are complacent, and there are no definitive maps showing landfills, so no one knows what damage they are doing. Apparently, even the best-managed landfills cause problems, such as toxic dust clouds. There are covers for waste dumps, but ultimately, they all seem to fail.
So much nonbiodegradable trash and plastics have been dumped into the oceans, one scientist noted that there is now more trash than life in the oceans. Trash is killing even large marine animals such as seals and whales by their getting entangled in it. When the plastics are finally broken down by the oceans movement, we get smaller and smaller fragments that are then ingested by organisms, which remain there for life. Furthermore, plastics both leach chemicals and attract chemicals that affect hormonal and immune systems. This is one reason whales are disappearing; their reproduction has been reduced because of these chemical processes.
The conclusion is that landfills are damaging to the environment; so what about incinerators? There are 800 of these in the world, 469 in Japan alone. The UK has 30, but they have 91 applications for more. Some hope to use incinerators to convert waste into energy, but all incinerators produce ash, which contains dioxins and other chemicals. Even though they have filters, filters constantly break down and are extremely expensive to replace. One incinerator in France wrecked 350 farms, and 3,000 animals had to be put down. Farmers in that area there can no longer consume their own products because the land is contaminated as well. Even though the cancer rates increased from 6% to 23%, government agencies denied there was a problem.
Dioxins are a huge problem. Once they get into a man’s body, he can never get rid of them. Women get rid of them, but that is because they are passed on to their babies. They travel through the body like viruses, and can even cross the blood-brain barrier. Most of us in the U.S. have dioxins in our bodies. Once these and other toxins get into the system, they are long-lasting. Forty years ago, Agent Orange was sprayed by Americans in Viet Nam and children there are still being born with disfiguring effects (e.g., missing arms, legs) and diseases.
Government regulation of incinerators is difficult because they emit ultra-fine particles that escape monitoring. The Arctic is the most contaminated because toxins become more concentrated in colder temperatures, so in the melting ice that is resulting from global warming, these toxins are being released.
Clearly, our land, air, and oceans are all polluted, and the only glimmer of hope is for everyone to participate in recycling. San Francisco is a model city in this regard. It separates trash into recyclable elements; plastics go to China to be reconstituted into new plastic products, and organic material is made into compost. Scientists there claim that we should be able to recycle over 90% of the waste generated in this country. Obviously, from the above, landfills and incinerators are not the answer.
This documentary should shake up all of us who see it, and make us take more action in stemming the tide of damaging waste. This is an excellent film. Grade: A