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Can Garbage Make You Sick?

February 15, 2009

I’m sick. For the past couple of days I have been feeling pretty under the weather. Stuffy nose, dry throat, throbbing headache, you know how it is. Could it be because  I am living with garbage? Can living with garbage make a person physically ill? Well first let’s define garbage.

So say we define garbage as an “unwanted substance”. Generally this definition rings true, right? It is SO easy as a consumer to get trapped in this “oh well, throw it out” attitude of just throwing everything that seems useless and meaningless in the trash. I have definitely been struggling with that so far. It is so frustrating because sometimes I just want to crumple something up and …. then I remember I should think about a better way to use it if I can or else I will have to look at that crumpled mess for a whiiile. Going a little further… why is “garbage” so unwanted?  Is it unwanted because it can no longer serve its purpose (like a broken dish) ? Is it unwanted because it no longer has a purpose to serve (like empty coke can) ? Is it unwanted because it is in excess (like dinner leftovers) ? Obviously, there are many different ways to categorize garbage, none that are very fascinating. To cut to the chase, there are many reasons why consumers feel garbage is unwanted.  But let’s have a look past these consumer perspectives on garbage for a bit…

Let’s redefine garbage as an “unwanted substance that no longer serves any purpose”. So, in this definition a broken dish is not garbage if it can be re-used to make a tiled mosaic. An empty coke can is not garbage if it can be recycled. Dinner leftovers (depending on the meal of course) can be compost that can enrich a garden.

Okay… so then what is garbage? From my experiment so far these are the items that I have been collecting that are TRULY garbage:

+ clear plastic packaging that was on food products

+ plastic packaging that held frozen vegetables

+ plastic dishes that held frozen meat

+ a paper bag from a bakery that has powdered sugar inside

Can living with any of these things be harmful? I should do my best to wipe out all of the sugar inside the paperbag and rise it out so there is no more food residue inside because maybe it will attract flies/ants. But other than that products that we live with everyday are made out of plastic and paper, how are these things any different? The lamp above my bed is plastic, am I in danger of sleeping under it? If I compost all my food leftovers as I have been doing then the rest of the trash SHOULD hypothetically be safe. Or just as safe as any other home that has a number of products made of plastics and other fabricated materials.

What do you guys think? I think that physically, my health is totally unaffected by the garbage. Perhaps mentally seeing it and associating it with other things… makes me feel less healthy? Maybe I would start to feel less clean? For example I associate garbage with a bad smell and dirty alleys in cities that have disease-infected rats. So mentally, maybe it could really get to me…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Cristal permalink
    February 17, 2009 03:11

    Good question! I really know very little about that but here goes… There is ALWAYS an opportunity for bacteria to form and propagate, especially when you’re keeping it around. You had mentioned at one point I think reusing the trays that meat comes on, but I imagine some bad stuff could still be there, especially in anything you reuse. I’d say just wash everything really well if you’re gonna be consuming something from it where bacteria could’ve formed.

    Or it could just be cause you’re in cold Sweden and it is winter and everyone’s getting sick!

    Or like you said, it could all be in your head.

    Hope you get better!!!

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