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An Obscenity For A New Era

An Obscenity For A New Era

What do you think of when you think of swear words? Probably a few choice words come to mind.

But David Suzuki has a unique concept of “bad” words – or at least ONE bad word.. The famous Canadian environmentalist said that the word DISPOSABLE should be like the F word for our generation. Think about it.

In fact, the word disposable is a misnomer. We may “throw it away” but whatever is deemed to be so useless so as to be chucked out does not get magically disposed of. It sits in our tidy bins, finds its way to the larger garbage bin that some hard working person has the good fortune to dump into a huge, gas-guzzling, super-compacting truck where said item journeys to a HUMUNGOUS landfill to sit for anywhere from a few years to, much more commonly, a few centuries. 

And talk about dirty language: don’t get me started on landfills. While not always successful, the idea behind these beasts of burden is to (hopefully) isolate densely compacted garbage in the ground with plastic lining and a regular covering of soil. Due to the lack of oxygen in landfills, most items do not biodegrade as they would in a compost pile or elsewhere. This is great news if you forgot to bury your time capsule last year! In two, three and even four generations’ time, the Little Johnnies of the world will see, perfectly preserved, exactly what was important enough to us that we purchased and then tossed away.

What really gets me though, more than the word disposable, is its seemingly innocuous, cutsie, yet serenely menacing cousin “SPOSIE”. This term, short for disposable, is used in reference to a throw-away, single-use diaper. 

Unfortunately, there is nothing cute or innocuous about these diapers, no matter how we say it.. 30 to 40 billion diapers every year go into landfills in North America, year after year. You get the idea – this is a lot of diapers. The point is, though, that these diapers are NOT disposable because they do not, in fact, get disposed of. They remain on our Earth, in one of the thousands of landfills dotting the land.

Thanks to the disposable diaper bagging systems like the Diaper Genie, soiled throwaway diapers are often wrapped up in sausage-like formations, tightly encapsulated and immortalized in plastic (yes, even MORE plastic than is already contained in the diaper itself). This ensures some containment of the odour from the poop that was supposed to be properly disposed of in the toilet before being thrown away. What, you never read the instructions on the side of the Huggies box?! Yup, that’s right – no human waste should be thrown away with the diapers as it can contaminate ground water and release viruses and bacteria. However, it is estimated that only 4% of throw-away diaper users properly dispose of the poop before chucking the diaper in the bin. That’s a lot of poop left to contaminate our drinking water! Good thing we pay extra to have our drinking water carefully bottled in pretty plastic containers. Oh boy, don’t get me started…

The last point I’d like to mention is the idea of so-called “environmentally-friendly” throwaway diapers. There is no such thing. Unless you’re home composting your diapers and spreading them on your garden in the Spring, wrapping these supposedly biodegradable diapers in plastic and adding them to your trash won’t do anything more than contribute to the steadily growing problem. So don’t deceive yourself. While the lack of bleach may be less harmful to our water systems, you’re not making much of a dent when you choose these diapers. When they are used, they still need to go somewhere. Food for thought, huh?