Garbage state

The dog just pissed on my bed and now I’ve had a fucking gut full. It’s a muggy Monday afternoon and I’ve gone and got myself a Code Yellow. My room is a trash-heap-wasteland-accident-waiting-to-happen,and it has taken some God-awful urine to launch me into action. Something in here has got to change, and the first thing will be the sordid nature of my bedclothes.

There are many other types of clothes that need washing in my room too. But these smell of the floor, which is less offensive. The term “floordrobe” is a pretty trendy one when it comes to how I use the space in my room. Because I am a cocktail of indecision in the morning, I’m never sure what to wear, what to pack for the day and, sometimes, I’m not even sure what year it is. All of these queries take some time to answer, and before I know it I’m flying out the door with my yellow backpack unzipped, a slice of dry toast in my mouth and my arms flailing so the bus will “wait for me!” You win some. You lose some.

Underneath my dirty clothes (and my cynicism), lie things I’ve been looking for in the last two weeks, and things I’d almost forgotten about. My favourite comic book was inside a cocoon of t-shirts and muesli bar wrappers, and my hard drive lay somehow unharmed, wedged between a running shoe and the bottom draw of the bedside table. There are iPhone headphones everywhere. They’re all knotted and wiggly and they look like white veins from above. I also find a Cosmo article I’d ripped out about “The women who voted for Trump”. In a discarded tote bag, I pull out a drawing a boy did of me on a date. I think about how much a Fire Permit costs. Burning shit always looks so cathartic in the movies.

Incineration used to be commonplace in Australia. When the Bubonic Plague hit Sydney in 1901, burning contaminated objects and equipment was the most hygienic disposal method around. Granted, by the early 21st Century, the fly ash and the chemicals from large-scale incineration were making people sick in a different way, so it was banned. People could still burn their rubbish at home though, because you can’t take a good localised burn away from a battler.

My dad likes to tell me how when he was at kid at primary school in the 1970s, he was in the Incineration Committee. “You’d go to every classroom and get their rubbish. Then you’d go to the incinerator on the oval, open the shaft, see the flames flicking and use a metal shovel to push everything in there.” The Herald’s Richard Glover is about my dad’s age, and he has nothing but good memories of burning shit too. He said, “the first incineration would be first thing on Saturday morning, the children gathering, their small, entranced faces illuminated by the glow provided by the remnants of Friday night’s fish supper.” What’s a good Enid Blyton book when you can gaze at hot trash flames in a “44-gallon drum in the corner of the backyard”?

The state government of Victoria reckons bloody-well nothing! The state’s Labour Upper House MP Cesar Melhem has overseen a proposal to reintroduce incineration for mainstream use. The proposal included plans on how to burn rubbish to produce electricity. This is a real lightbulb moment for Victoria, because it would reduce items going into landfill by 90 per cent. This procedure is called waste-to-energy disposal.

Understandably, pollution from incineration plants worries a lot of people in Victoria. Fly ash is a byproduct of burning trash, and it emits chemicals into their air. Fly ash are small flecks of metallic burn off, from coal, iron or copper, that scatter through the air after waste has been incinerated. Per 100 tonnes of rubbish burnt, 3 tonnes of fly ash is created. In 2017, Victoria was predicted to produce 20 million tonnes of landfill per year. That’s a heck of a lot of fly ash whizzing through the air.

However, Deakin University’s Trevor Thornton said fly ash can be controlled. Thornton said, “nowadays, the controls on them [incinerator facilities] and the way of managing the fly ask- where it gets disposed of, how it’s managed- is a lot more sophisticated than it was.” The Environmental Protection Authority strictly controls and monitors the building and management of incinerators. To dispose of waste safely, separate disposal units have to be built too. This extra infrastructure makes incineration a little more costly than just dumping more garbage on the pile. It would cost the Victorian government $100 per tonne to dispose of rubbish via incineration. This is double the cost of just dumping it.

But in the long-run, the electricity generated at these plants would be redistributed into the grid, and would help to reduce the cost of power rates for taxpayers. So, if we spent a little extra coin on efficient waste disposal, we wouldn’t have to spend so much coin on turning our power bills anymore. At the moment, waste-to-energy plants are in use in Europe and Asia and the first one in Australia will be built in Perth. Victoria is likely to build its very own trash burner in Melbourne by 2025.

I’ll be 29 in 2025, and frankly that makes me more nervous than fly ash. This is because I live in Queensland, and we’re looking into selling the Great Barrier Reef to money hungry mining dickheads ahead of buying incinerators. It will be a long time before fly ash enters the toad state’s consciousness, so different measures will need to be taken to reduce landfill itself. It’s predicted that by 2020, Queensland will have produced 29 million tonnes of non-recyclable waste. Add five years, and we’ll be swimming around in a sea of single-use items, styrofoam packing peanuts and plastic shopping bags like our long-lost fish friends. This is, unless we clean up our act.

Remember how Alice Cullen in Twilight could see the future? Her visions were subjective, because if someone changed their mind, their future would change too. Imagine if Alice predicted that, because of our current waste pattern, Queensland would produce 29 million tonnes of shit by 2020. Just make that jump. Imagine Alice is as ocker as they come, a true blue, dinkey-di, Lara Bingle blood sucker. This would mean that if Queenslanders reduced their use of single-use items, fast fashion and plastics, Alice’s prediction of the landfill situation would change. She’d be like “Oi mates, I’m seeing less filth this time.”

Twilight rocked my fucking world when I was a teenager, but so did nylon tights, plastic water bottles and yarn-bombing. What I’m trying to say is, change is a good thing, and it’ll make the future better for everyone. For example, I no longer ask the hairdresser to give me terribly concave layers. All of our lives are better for this. So, if we want to see a better, brighter, cleaner future, we have to learn how to reduce waste.

Take my hazardously messy room, for instance. I have too many clothes that I never wear. I still own CDs, DVDs and an MP3 player, like I’m some kind of wild girl. I bought new shoes even though there’s nothing wrong with my old ones and my rubbish bin holds at least five plastic bags, two water bottles and some bent up staples. If Alice were here, she’d look at me with her funny vampire googly eyes and say, “even I didn’t anticipate this kind of mess, sheila.” Oof, what a blow. My room’s in such a shambles that a mythical creature has given me a reality check.

My room is a reflection of how I treat every space I enter into. It’s the end result of being too busy, or too tired or too absent. Having too much stuff and hardly any use of it is the reason my room is an extension of Queensland’s landfill problem, and the reason we’ll all soon be living in the garbage state. I’m not a very strong swimmer, so I can’t allow Queensland to be swamped in rubbish. Cleaning up my God forsaken room will be my first foray into sustainable living. It will be my rubbish repentance for a lifetime of suburban squallor. It will be the last time I go and get myself a Code Yellow.

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