By Luis E. Sabini Fernández
The janitors burned household garbage every day, every morning in the "incinerators" that everyone (or almost) had installed. To continue burning “garbage” as when plastics did not exist was not only stupid but suicidal.
In La Matanza, at the crossroads of national routes 3 and provincial 21, just after Laferrere, concerned inhabitants, organized or grouped neighbors gather because a system of "energy reconversion" is being projected there. They are about 25 km from the federal capital, and yet in a very literal and everyday sense they are our neighbors, or perhaps we have to say we are their neighbors. Because every 365 days a year everyday waste, "urban solid waste" with office language, better known on the street as "the trash" of the entire city, that is to say also that of El Abasto, and in reality, of everything the AMBA (Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, which also includes the municipalities that surround the capital in the so-called three cordons) reach three or four pre-established sites so that the neighbors can make it again every day, fresh as a lettuce.
One of those “reserved” sites, “selected” to receive the daily waste of 14 million inhabitants (the census will tell us if there are more of us, as the internal situation of the country suggests) is, in La Matanza, González Catán, next door from the intersection of routes 3 and 21. There they want to install CARE: Integral Center for Energy Reconversion.
In 1976, the authorities that we choose or not to govern our daily steps proposed a "solution" to us. Wonderful, clean, ecological, modern. Something extraordinary.
In fact, if the authorities tell us about a "solution" it is because there was a problem. A problem that little and nothing had been mentioned. But there was. And how! Because household garbage had until then two destinations: the “garbage dump” collected private houses and all those remains were deposited in generally open places, where surgeons but also animals, rescued what they could and in the buildings, the porters burned it every day, every morning in the "incinerators" that everyone (or almost) had installed. At seven o'clock in the morning, shortly before and after, the air in the city turned gray, darkened until it looked like a storm warning, but more gloomily. A lead gray that was the best breeding ground for "respiratory" diseases.
The technical gadgets used, incinerators burned to a few hundred degrees and had been designed to burn organic debris and paper. All this, especially paper with black ink, was burnable and its solid remains were not even the original 1% and its aerial remains only contributed to urban warming, already visible at that time, although no one spoke of global warming. But for a few decades, "garbage" had more and more a new guest, plastic materials, which with all the plasticity that their name indicates, do not bind so well with heat. To continue burning “garbage” as when plastics did not exist was not only stupid but suicidal.
Because we were all invited to participate, because the air is a collectivist entity by nature.
Thus appeared the garbage burial. Nobody was alarmed even by the name, so little linked to life. Nobody even alluded to the opportunity in which the brand-new "solution" of depositing urban solid waste in ditches lined with thick layers of polyethylene was carried out (supposedly to avoid contamination of the soils, as if the leachate did not exist) that it was precisely when so many people disappeared from Argentine society ...
In short, the burial of rubbish means that a piece, a strip of the planetary carpet is lifted and there is hidden underneath what is no longer wanted to be seen or used for what an instant before had served ...
The burial of garbage has an enormous practical advantage compared to venting, which is so democratic to "spread" gases: it is done in one, two or three places, well defined, with which in fact and during these last decades, only a handful of some hundred thousand inhabitants of the 14 million already mentioned have had to see or smell the enormous deposits. As they are "barely" 1% or 2% of the population, the rest of society has allowed themselves to be.
But after the closure of Wilde's repository, stocks have rushed. Less and less municipalities are willing to allow themselves to be bought for a handful of dollars and give up land to bury garbage. In reality, many mayors have wanted but have not found the municipal corner where their neighbors have accepted ...
And those that still function as warehouses or repositories face increasing and logical resistance.
Faced with such a panorama, which we have been dragging on for decades, the attempts of the re have sprung up. Recycle, reuse, patch ...
It is an attempt in a good way, strictly speaking, to go back to doing what all societies always did. But it is a move that "runs from behind." Always surpassed by the "producer" impulse. Because our society, hypertechnified and very comfortable, is a huge promoter of waste production.
Recycling exists, but it has limited scope.
Then the new solution emerged, that is, the new recognition that we were still in trouble with what we did “normally”. It is curious that we do "normally" something that is considered harmful, senseless, useless, toxic ... "Normally" we would say that whoever does that is half coliphate.
Well, the solution now promoted by the INTI is to burn, to burn again all the domestic garbage to get rid of the tremendous mountain from above. A "mountain" that feeds on about 15 thousand tons per day ...
The INTI, its director, Enrique Martínez assures us that the filters that can now be applied eliminate all contamination from that chemical jungle that in the 1970s went to our lungs.
Without going into evaluating these new filters, because it would be necessary to be very sure not only that they are better, much better, but that they do not allow not only grams or milligrams but even micrograms of toxins into the air (because some are deadly in absolutely tiny dimensions) , the question, the true intricacies, passes on the other side.
The new burn, the CARE project, is to turn garbage into energy - something that was tried in Germany years ago and discarded. This means giving the “go-ahead” to garbage production. The promoters of everyday waste will surely appear to improve the possibilities of combustion of waste that gives us more energy ...
And that stimulation of perishable, ephemeral, wasteful consumption that today characterizes the "consumer society" (although in our latitudes it is often possible to talk about it on all fours) does not bring us closer to the solution but rather introduces us more to the problem . Because the problem we have is that the planet no longer supports so much consumption. So much contamination. Or that supports it, yes, but getting worse.
Luis E. Sabini Fernandez - Argentina