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OPINION: Things to worry about (there are many)

OPINION: Things to worry about (there are many)

I’m worried. That is, there’s so much to be worried about today that I feel worrying about it is the only responsible thing to do.

I worry about the economy. I worry about my health. I worry about all the wars and other disasters around the world that are happening or about to happen. I worry about all the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean or dying of thirst in the Arizona desert. 

I’m sure there’s an app for worrying, but I’m not very techy (just ask Dave the Tech Guy, here at work), so I have to do my worrying the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper, lest I forget to worry about something important.

I worry about the environment. I worry about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a slowly swirling gyre about three times the size of France, halfway between California and Hawai’i, that’s made up of an estimated 80,000 metric tons (that’s around 88,000 regular tons) of plastic.

I worry that the polystyrene foam container in which I take home my leftover vermicelli alla carbonara will somehow find its way into the GPGP — even though I have no idea how that could happen, but somehow, apparently, it can and does.

(Disclaimer: I don’t worry that I’m going to get a letter from Dow Chemical, but I should point out that these containers are not made of Styrofoam, which is a trade name for certain construction materials, not used for coffee cups and the like, even though it’s basically the same stuff.)

I also worry that if these containers are outlawed — the Connecticut House just passed such a ban — any more truly biodegradable packaging they come up with will leak marinara sauce all over my clothes.

Anyway, the idea is that it’s greener to use packaging that won’t be hanging around forever. Polystyrene foam is almost impossible to recycle and never completely degrades; instead, it breaks down into tiny plastic beads that find their way into waterways and seas and thus into the food supply. So “natural organic reduction” of these containers just isn’t going to happen.

But there’s also some good news on the recycling front: One thing that does lend itself to “natural organic reduction” is the human body, and Washington is the first state to recognize that fact. Gov. Jay Inslee just signed legislation to allow "human composting" that can turn cadavers into potting soil within weeks.

Without getting too graphic, this law will allow licensed facilities to offer the age-old “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” process to environmentally conscious survivors as an alternative to burial.

The legislation was inspired by Katrina Spade, a graduate student who came up with the idea by modeling it from a method farmers use to dispose of livestock. 

The law also allows loved ones to keep the soil in urns, similar to cremation, spread it on public lands, or use it to grow plants on private property.

Think of it: No more overcrowded cemeteries. No more embalming chemicals getting into the groundwater. Less carbon from cremations.

“It just seems like an area that is ripe for having technology help give us some better options than we have used,” Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, of Seattle, told USA TODAY in April.

What’ll they think of next?

Reach Glenn Richter at