When people start green wood working at The Field – we usually carve spoons (nothing that requires major skillfulness) – they often remark on the waste of wood: how much more wood is left on the ground than is in the final spoon. This is partly because people tend to start with too large a piece of wood but of course there will always be a lot of chippings for each spoon carved.
I always reassure people that all this waste is useful: very fine chippings can be used in the compost toilet. They are required to ‘feed’ the compost to avoid the terrible smell of the ‘long drop’. (Because of the wood shavings and straw, compost toilets actually don’t smell). Larger chips are very useful as kindling when starting fires.
When we, humans, fabricated things using materials and processes that had useful waste products – useful either directly for humans or useful for other non-human species – we didn’t have to think too hard about waste. In a sense, waste didn’t exist. But now it does.
I heard a scientist talking on BBC radio4 (apologies for not catching her name) about how they have found some of the plastic they knew must be in the oceans. Apparently there are tiny particles on the ocean floor, now part of the accumulated silt, tiny microscopic fibres, too small to see.
I look at my clothes, some of which is made of plastic fibres – polyester, rayon, that kind of thing – and I think of the fibres that must come off each day and then all the fibres that will go to landfill once I’ve finished with them and I am just one person with an average amount of clothes.
I guess it’s possible the plastic will be habitat for something.
At The Field, it always surprises me how often plastic rubbish, thrown out of people’s cars as they drive past, is useful to a variety of creatures.
I guess, the presence of plastic fibres will alter the balance of life on the ocean floors and favour the creatures who can make use of it and then the creatures who rely on the creatures who can make use of it.