Reduce Your Landfill Contribution by Avoiding Monstrous Hybrids

by Hallie Brennan, Upcycle Santa Fe

If you’ve been keeping up with the zero-waste community lately you may have come across the term Monstrous Hybrid.  A pairing of words that undoubtedly sparks the imagination as to its origin and meaning.

Monstrous Hybrid: [mahn-strus high-brid] Noun. English origin.

1. To describe the hostility of ones ex lover.

2. The worst pizza toppings combo you sadly decided upon which brought on 24 hours of heartburn fire.

3. A term coined by Michael Braungart and William McDonough from Cradle to Cradle Design for a product, component, or material that combines both technical and organic nutrients (such as recyclable paper and poly-vinyl-chloride) in a way that cannot be easily separated, thereby rendering it unable to be recycled or reused. Most monstrous hybrids can only be thrown away and directly contribute to the waste stream.

I’m going to let your ripe brain decide which of those three definitions is the accurate one…

Wherever you’re sitting right now there is very likely a monstrous hybrid in your presence.  Look around you.  Where I’m sitting I see a shiny magazine whose pages are coated with a plastic-based epoxy; a mailing envelope that is on one side paper, and the other side glued bubble-wrap; last night’s part aluminum part paper restaurant to-go box; paper mailing envelopes with plastic windows; packing tape; nylon rope; old cotton-elastic blue jeans; meat pads; Clorox wipes… okay, okay, enough!  Are you getting the point?  We are surrounded by monstrous hybrids.  A product made of two components, usually glued or infused together where one part may be recyclable or reusable, but because it’s sealed to another part we cannot separate it, therefore we cannot recycle it, and can rarely upcycle it, either.  We have no choice but to use it once, then toss it to the landfill.  Our homes, workplaces, landfills, and oceans have been invaded.  There are these objects we well-behaved and compliant consumers have allowed in to our lives for the sake of convenience, but at the expense of our environment.

There’s no denying we live in a capitalist world.  The disease of consumerism has leaked beyond the United States and Europe and into countries throughout the world whose infrastructure often times isn’t prepared for the waste management that comes along with mass consumerism.  Here in the United States our own infrastructure is falling behind the demands of US consumers, too.  But what if we weren’t buying convenient atrocities, like the monstrous hybrids?  What if such objects weren’t even sold on the shelves of our local markets, but instead only products that could easily be recycled or upcycled once we’re finished with them?  This idea has absolute probability of becoming reality.  How do we go from ‘idea’ to ‘reality’?  Conceptual designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby sum up this idea in their book Speculative Everything, “For [designers] the separation from the marketplace creates a parallel design channel free from market pressures and available to explore ideas and issues.  These could be new possibilities for design itself; social, cultural, and ethical implications for science or technology research; or large scale social and political issues such as democracy, sustainability, and alternatives to our current model of capitalism.”

photo credit: Getty images

Step One, awareness.  The term monstrous hybrid isn’t heard on a daily basis, though our encounters with such things are.  If we are to begin the process of conscious consumerism and weed out these harmful monstrous hybrids from our lifestyle and landfill (those two go hand in hand!) we must begin with some awareness on our own behalf.   Awareness is within reach, my friend, and you’re probably already doing it.  You’ve likely already developed an awareness to toss your glass bottle in the recycling bin, or perhaps you’ve switched over to the swirly last-five-years eco-friendly lightbulbs in your home?  Personally, I have found my awareness of unnecessary plastic has increased since becoming an ecobricker.  A little effort seriously goes a long way.

Step two, commit.  That’s a really scary word for some of you… #sorrynotsorry  If awareness while shopping in stores takes hold of our consciousness, then as consumers we begin to change our buying habits and patterns.  Again, you’re probably already doing this.  Organic food?  Fragrance free?  No yellow #5 mustard?  Fair-trade coffee?  All of these buying habits changed because of your awareness to specific health and/or social issues.  Committing to avoiding monstrous hybrids is the next step to take, you lovely conscious consumer, you!  I am going make a commitment, too, and I welcome you try it.  I am no longer accepting my leftovers from restaurants in the offered to-go box.  More times than none, these to-go boxes are not easy to ecobrick or recycle because they’re drenched in food saturation, are a monstrous hybrid, or even worse, styrofoam.  Now you have the next blog post to look forward to where I discuss the awkward but intriguing art of carrying around my own reusable to-go box in my purse.

August 2017
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