The Unspoken Secrets of Trash

Trash and litter will tell us a lot, if we take time to consider their presence. Yesterday, on returning from a walk around the block, I found four pieces of trash at the edge of our lawn. Curiously, all four pieces were white – a piece of paper towel, a thin sheet of plastic packaging foam, a plastic snack pack with a picture of a goofy snowman and a dryer sheet. White trash!

The term “white trash” is a derogatory term that refers to the wretched and landless poor white people who have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today’s hillbillies. This white trash in our yard, however, was something different.

I have been teaching third grade students about single-use plastic, which is plastic unfit for the recycle bin that ends up in a landfill. Single-use plastics include styrofoam packaging materials, potato chip bags, plastic netting (used to bag ham, fruits and vegetables), snack packaging, candy wrappers and the list goes on. When people start to notice all the single-use plastic being tossed into the waste basket, it can be surprising just how much there is.

I got to wondering about the dryer sheet? How bad could a dryer sheet be to the environment. I looked for an ingredients list on the Bounce box sitting above our clothes dryer. No ingredients were listed, so I did some online research. The ingredients were missing from the manufacturer’s website. Then I found myself on Dr. Axe’s website where I read, “the current United States Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require dryer sheet manufacturers to list actual ingredients, including the chemicals used in fragrance blends.”

Further down the web page I read, ” In one of the most interesting studies to date, pioneering fragrance researchers Anne Steinemann, PhD, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, looked at the chemicals spewing out of dryer vents… Seven hazardous air pollutants and 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these, including acetaldehyde and benzene, are not safe at any level. (These are also pollutants that commonly spew out of vehicle tailpipes.)”

Steinemann comments, “These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies.” Time to stop wasting good money buying dryer sheets. They’re trash.

Yes, trash and litter will tell us a lot, if we take time to consider their presence.

Read my recent article about Clean Ocean Access and how the organization is working on getting plastic waste off our beaches and out of our waterways.

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