The Three R’s: Why “Reduce” comes first

Light crunches of plastic beneath their feet escalate as the students begin to step off of the bus. Scattered scraps of colored papers and plastics flutter lightly in the wind. This is outside of the Material Recovery Facility in Ann Arbor. On the inside, conditions are not much better.

Trash is scattered around the floor as workers try to quickly sort the material by hand. There were many inefficiencies and issues with the sorting process that cause much of the material to be missed. The class had arrived around 9:30AM on a Tuesday and there were already mountains of material waiting to be sorted from the “tipping point.” It seems impossible that the workers would ever be able to finish sorting through it. Two landfills at this facility are closed off and were filled within 50 years. This is only one city, in one state, in one country. The amount of waste that the human race creates is enormous, and it is only increasing. With consumerist cultures on the rise, this problem is only going to get worse. While recycling and composting are good for the environment, the real impact comes from reducing waste. Reducing consumption is not an easy task, however, and it would require a major culture shift.

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One Response to “The Three R’s: Why “Reduce” comes first”

  1. Good description, Kirsten. The scene would be even more vivid if you included notes about sound, smell, feeling of the wind. I know that we are very visual creatures, but if you can include the other senses in your descriptions, readers are more likely to imagine what it’s like to actually be there. What story angles could you imagine flowing from this scene? Which would have the most impact? Did you notice any nut graphs, any nuggets of something new on this tour?

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