Let's take a look at that trash

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Opinion: Letters to the editor

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By Julieta Aguilera

I think we need to deal with pollution. What do you think? Pollution can cause many health issues for humans, even cancer. In turn, changing behavior to decrease pollution contributes to everybody's health as well as the health of the many life forms we share the planet with. We can individually decrease pollution by avoiding waste right here, right now. 

One way is to realize that in Forest Park, like in other places around the country and the planet, we have a big problem with trash addiction, where we produce a lot of polluting waste and promptly hide it, pretending it never existed. I personally think we should not hide trash but need to look at it carefully and think of what we need to do to trash less, especially because there is no "away" in "throw away" (the throwing part has too many negative consequences to list here). 

This addiction is becoming more obvious — with countries not accepting our carelessly handled recyclables since this past year. These are countries where we used to ship boatloads of materials, knowing full well most of them do not have the ability to process them, and so the materials end up in the ocean. Sadly, polluting at such scale was cheap. 

In the U.S., waste management facilities are now swamped in garbage, such as single-use plastic that nobody wants because there has never been a market for it. We live on the same planet and the trash is swamping us all, especially the plastic trash that does not decompose and pollutes the air when incinerated, the land when buried, and everywhere else when mishandled. 

I have been picking up trash in front of my house for 20 years now, and this has inspired me to be more mindful of what I consume. Some days I pick five pieces of trash from our front yard, some days 20. I have talked to village staff and to many businesses in town, but see that not only has the "all you can waste" mentality not changed much, but trash piles have increased inside and outside the trash and recycling bins. 

This is why I think it is a good idea to look at the trash and invite my fellow garden trash-pickers who remove garbage from their yards every week to consider installing the free Litterati app on your phone, and with a couple taps, add whatever available information on what material, objects and brands you are picking up. 

I know many caring people in town regularly pick up trash from their yards. Let's join forces and go a step further. If you are comfortable with using smartphone and computer applications in general, the Litterati app and its website are very user-friendly and well documented (see Litterati.org). 

Moreover, I have a challenge for us: to pick, snap, tag, and properly dispose of 10,000 items before Earth Day 2019. If each household in Forest Park picked, snapped, tagged and properly disposed of just three pieces of trash between now and then, we would be set. But remember, the challenge is not to put it away but to make it visible by adding the information to the worldwide Litterati database, and reflecting on what we can do to trash less and inspire others to do their part on this effort. 

If you do download and use Litterati, please consider joining the Go Green Forest Park Club within the app so we can look at the data together. If you need help installing or using the app, I will post meetup times during February in the Go Green Forest Park facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/gogreenforestpark. I am also happy to answer questions, but everyone should feel free to jump right in. Go Green Forest Park!

Julieta Aguilera is a Forest Park resident. 

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