Garbage with Bill Nye

The date: December 3, 1993 (incidentally, this was a Friday. I was probably in kindergarten?)

The show: Bill Nye the Science Guy

The episode? Garbage (watch below)

Bill Nye Episode 13: Garbage

Bill Nye, along with a cohort of awesome elementary-age students, explain to us that garbage can be natural and a lot of the time, unnatural. He shows that nature produces waste but that humans produce a lot MORE waste that doesn’t go away. He talks about all forms of garbage and he mentions plastic quite a bit.

Perhaps my favorite part of this episode, by FAR is when the kids talk about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I like this for a couple of reasons. One, because they give each R time – they don’t rush through reducing and reusing and then emphasize recycling. I find that a lot of organizations touting the “3 Rs” really only want you to focus on recycling. Well, recycling would be all well and good if it actually worked. Since it’s not working that well at the moment, consideration needs to be given to the other 2 “Rs” because it really isn’t that hard at all.

Gettin' down & dirty with waste - natural and non.

So after they go through all that, you’re left thinking, “OK, well I know about the 3 R’s…but I already knew that, so what now?” This is where the show got me. First, Bill Nye goes on a tirade around 18:56, which is something I find myself doing when I get frustrated with plastic waste. But then the kids, once again, save the day. They proceed to debut “RETHINKING” as a 4th R (around 19:46). It’s funny, really, because once-upon-a-time, people didn’t even need the 3 Rs. It’s hard to imagine, but here WAS a time when plastics weren’t convenient and when re-purposing an item was just something people did…without thinking about it. They had to make do with what they had. Somehow in the last 50+ years, this message of rethinking and re-purposing has gotten lost as the age of convenience settled in and never left. So for a show like Bill Nye the Science Guy to bring back the “rethink” option in 1993 – is just crazy, and awesome.

Here were are in 2011 and when you ask someone if they could refuse a plastic bag, they look at you with a strange expression – except this is exactly what Bill Nye and those awesome kids were trying to teach us in the 90s! It’s not a new concept. Garbage is not a new concept. We just have to think of new ways to use it and cut it out of our lives. Bill’s right:

“We need to think about what happens to something after we throw it away!”

As a side note, did everybody love Bill Conrad’s bit about turning plastic into fuel? Talk about ahead of his time – this article from the NYTimes makes it seem as though the concept is something new! How funny.

Bill Nye, befuddled at our waste epidemic.
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