While teaching in South Korea I was saddened every time I saw a poor, bent old ‘ajuma’ (old woman) dragging a pile of cardboard to the recycling depot. What disturbed me is the general lack of empathy for the poor and impoverished old people in modern culture, not just in Korea.
What disturbs me especially is to see the disregard for the poor among so many students, not talk about the ignorance among especially affluent people, including the eco-friendly, nature-conscious yuppies, about their sin of narcissistic consumerism. A sin? Yes, it is driven by a carnal selfishness, lack of respect for creation and reckless stewardship, allowing the trash-generating packaging industry to ride easy on false perceptions around recycling for the past thirty years.
The answer is not recycling, but to reduce the mountain of unnecessary trash related to unbridled consumerism. This is the lie that’s growing the packaging industry to become a $950 billion industry by 2022.
The new generation should rise above consumerism and should lead the battle for the protection of earth’s resources and not leave it in the hands of the greedy.
Consumers have been duped to think that everything with the universal recycling logo on it will automatically get recycled, when in truth very few nations recycle more than 35% of their trash, not counting the cost and carbon footprint to recycle. Plastic is the monster among the 600 million tons of trash landing in oceans every year, causing massive marine pollution.
The reason why this battle needs to be taken up in the Far East is because Asia is the largest market, already accounting for 42% of world packaging consumption, which is set to grow fast to 48% in the next few years. In comparison, North America is second, accounting for 24%, Western Europe for 18% and the emerging and developing regions for the remaining 15% of world packaging consumption.