Dealing with MOOP

MOOP n. trash; foreign items found where they do not belong. Editorial Note: This term is associated with the Burning Man festival. Etymological Note: matter out of place.

My reason for going to the mini mercado today was to purchase some large garbage bags. I explained to Maria, the store owner, that I have some old styrofoam under the house that’s been there since before I came and I’d like to put it into garbage bags so that I can dispose of it. She did not have any garbage bags in stock, so the man with whom I’d been briefly chatting with beforehand suggested ‘why don’t you just burn it?’.

Why was I not surprised by this answer? ‘But surely that can’t be good can it?’. ‘Doesn’t it release toxins into the air?’ I asked, tempting fate that perhaps he might answer with something other than what I was already used to hearing.

‘Just burn it away from where you are. Far away somewhere. Burn lots of wood, get it hot and then throw it all on. All that will be left will be ashes.’ He highlighted that now is the right time to do it, during the cold and wet period (OK, he’s registered the threat of fire, have to see that as positive)!

‘Hmm, but I’m not sure I agree with that. I mean, I drink the water that comes from the water mine below and if  the plastic releases toxins into the ground then surely I’ll be drinking that?’

‘I doubt it’, he said. ‘The ground will filter it’.

‘I’m not sure I really like the idea of this’, I said. ‘It seems to me that people around here dispose of their rubbish in a manner that seems careless. It’s like all the ‘lixo’ (garbage) that I see on the sides of the road, or anywhere, just thrown with reckless abandon’. Well, it does always pain me. I cannot understand it. On my quinta alone I have disovered numerous spots where material had been burnt, everything! Plastics, old clothes, glass … anything goes.

‘Quema tudo!’

The end of the conversation ends with the customer not understanding why I don’t get it, and perhaps he even wondered as to why I gave it so much importance.

So is it true? Is there any merit to what he said to me?

I mean, if I were to pack that styrofoam into garbage bags and put it into the bin where would it go anyway and what process would it be put through? Could it be that there is a better solution than what I had originally thought was the right thing? Could it be that there was some merit in what the ‘local’ was telling me? Perhaps burning it would reduce it all to harmless ash, and if not then perhaps the ground would do some job of filtering it? It made me curious about what other ways could there be to dispose of plastics? Could some form of incineration combined with mycoremediation or EM treatment on the ashes be used to process plastic wastes into harmless inert material, and if not then what are the hazards of it? What really is the best way to dispose of plastics? This must be an important question, especially for plastics which are not recyclable?

After some simple searching on Google I soon came to realise it’s not an easy topic to deal with:

This should give enough reason for treading with caution on the subject:
Dioxins & why you dont want to be burning plastic

What’s happening here is a smaller scale of this:
A Walk Around Guiyu, China

A very good forum post I found on …
‘Looking for Alternatives to Burning Garbage’.

On some of the more progressive attempts at processing plastics:
Plastic to oil refinery

Also, if you Google ‘microbes breaking down plastics’ you will find results of many bacteria that are being discovered from places such as the ‘ocean deserts’ to the Amazon jungle that break down plastics. However there have been no practical stand alone applications that I’ve seen as yet.

In summary, it seems that the ‘local’ gentleman that I spoke with (who I would say represents the views of a collective) is definitely mistaken, however I still fail to understand how this way of thinking came about? A way of thinking that I would describe what seems to me as over-simplistic, ignorant, careless and irresponsible and how one might change it, if at all possible?

In the mean time I ask myself just how many people in this country are burning off plastics in open fires and how many of them even care of what the consequences are? I’ve seen enough evidence around to know that unfortunately it’s not uncommon around here.

It is illegal (and so is disposing of garbage anywhere in the country side)! however the strategy of making it illegal does not seem to make people any more aware or sensitive to the issue.

1 Comment

  • Eco_dao

    May 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

    great post , and yes it is endemic around here.

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