Do you think about what you throw away, the things you never lay eyes on again? Do you think about the things that get washed away from your sight? Much of it never really goes away.
Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day. A day for us to spread awareness abut environmental issues.
This semester at university I’m doing a project about the remediation of industrial sites at Homebush Bay (Sydney) and sediments in the bay. Particularly for the Union Carbide/Lednez site. Union Carbide left the site long ago, with a cap on chemicals buried in the soil to try to prevent their further spread. However, during industrial activities, which included the reclamation of land, plenty of toxins were released into the soil and bay sediments.
This Homebush Bay site was used for industrial chemical production, including timber preservatives, herbicides (I think Agent Orange was produced here at some point – breakdown of Agent Orange releases dioxins), DDT, and many others. Over the course of activity at these sites (1890s-1970s) it was considered normal to dump waste products in the near-by water (perhaps for some things it’s still the norm). Contaminated soil was used for the reclamation and run-off from normal activities and weather went into the bay.
Think about the substances that went in there: products that preserved dead tissues (timber), substances that killed organic material (Agent Orange) and pesticides (DDT). The thing about many of these chemicals is that they’re not naturally occurring, so they’re not able to be broken down naturally, i.e. they’re not biodegradable. They’re not biodegradable and they accumulate up the food chain to cause some nasty biological problems.
At the moment a large remediation project is going on in Homebush using thermal desorption to get rid of dioxins from the area. I believe a significant motivating factor is to build residential apartments on the site, as well as a marina. I don’t know if the area can support that sort of expansion, but another reason that was proposed for doing this was that it just shouldn’t be left for the next generation to deal with. I thought that was a right response.
There’s no value in pointing fingers now, what’s done is done. People and industry were happy to release this sort of thing into our midst. Heck, DDT was sprayed on the walls of people’s homes to combat malaria. What we can do now is learn from their mistakes and make an effort to clean things up.
I don’t really think very hard about what I throw away, but I’m sure I could be less wasteful and more observant of what I just release into the world to rot (or not rot as is the case for many chemicals, including plastics). What bout you? Do you think about what you wash down your sink? Do you think about what you throw in your trash, which then gets in a hole in the ground? Do you think about what you can reuse?
I’d love to hear about anything you’re careful to dispose of or inventive ways you’ve reused things.