Trash can come back to haunt you


There’s a lot of mess to clean up around here after the Strawberry Festival or after a Fourth of July celebration. When humanoids get together, we create a lot of trash. If you’ve ever seen pictures of what Woodstock looked like after days of love, peace and joy, it will be clear to you that all that fun can be a messy business.

That’s the problem the good people of Slagelse, Denmark, have been struggling with. Slagelse is a municipality of around 34,000 people not far from the Baltic Sea (then again, nowhere in Denmark is actually very far from the Baltic Sea). The government there is responsible for Stillinge Beach, a popular vacation destination on the Baltic.

The problem is that when a bunch of people go to the beach, they leave stuff behind. Plus, all kinds of plastic and seaweed washes up on the beach, making it look, well, kind of messy.

So the government spends a bunch of money to send bulldozers and other equipment in to clean up the beach. It gets all that plastic and other stuff and then … it dumps it back out in the sea. Really, no kidding! Naturally, it all washes back up. If not on their beach, then on someone else’s beach. I guess it’s good job security for the cleanup guys.

Most city officials wisely clammed up when asked about their trash removal program, but one of them did make a comment that plastic and cigarette butts and other things were likely to end up in the water one way or the other, anyway. They were just speeding the process up.

I am tempted to heap ridicule and scorn on the people of Slagelse, but I live in a town that at one time had toxic waste areas caused by chemicals from manufacturing companies, old batteries and various other things. We didn’t have an ocean to throw them into, so we just dug big holes and put all our refuse in there. This really seems stupid now, but back then, it was what everyone did. It cost millions upon millions of dollars to clean up.

I guess it’s just human nature to throw something in the trash and then think that it somehow magically disappears. Out of sight, out of mind. But as we found out with our toxic dumps and as the good people of Denmark are finding out about their beach, that trash can come back to haunt you.

I suppose over there in Slagelse, they could dig holes for their trash, too, but there just isn’t a lot of land. It’s a lot easier to send it all out to sea. It made the beach look good for a while, but now they have a massive public relations policy. They’ll have to find another way to get rid of the trash. Since it is Denmark, I think the solution should probably include Lego in some way.

It’s not like they’re alone. Dumping in the ocean has created giant patches of plastic-infested water. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also known as the Great Trash Vortex, which is a really cool name for a bunch of garbage) has reached legendary proportions. We even have space junk left over from various space missions orbiting the Earth.

Outside of the guys with the bulldozers on the beach in Denmark, the only people who really get excited about trash are archaeologists. Those guys concoct entire civilizations out of broken pottery, bones left over from meals and other things left behind by previous civilizations that didn’t know how to get rid of their trash.

I wonder if in the future someone will reconstruct the story of America using plastic bottles, old Twinkie wrappers, pizza boxes and computer parts. I’d love to see what they come up with!

In the meantime, I have canceled my vacation to Slagelse. I hear it’s a nice beach and all, but I guess I feel more comfortable staying at home with my own toxic waste dumps.

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