You Are Made of Waste
Searching for the ultimate example of recycling? Look in the mirror.
You may think of yourself as a highly refined and sophisticated creature—and you are. But you are also full of discarded, rejected, and recycled atomic elements. Don’t worry, though—so is almost everyone and everything else.
Look at one of your fingernails. Carbon makes up half of its mass, and roughly one in eight of those carbon atoms recently emerged from a chimney or a tailpipe. Coal-fired power plants, petroleum-guzzling cars, and kitchen gas stoves release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Each of those waste molecules is a carbon atom borne on two atomic wings of oxygen. Fossil-based carbon dioxide molecules that are not soaked up by the oceans or stranded in the upper atmosphere are eventually captured by plants, shorn of their oxygen wings, and woven into botanical sugars and starches. Eventually, some of them end up in bread, sweets, and vegetables, while others help form carbon-rich animal tissues, finding their way into meat and dairy products. Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide was mainly replenished by volcanoes, forest fires, and biotic respiration. Today, one quarter of atmospheric CO2 is the result of fossil fuel combustion, whether it rose from smokestacks or was displaced from the oceans. (When fossil-fuel CO2 dissolves into ocean water, it displaces already-dissolved carbon dioxide derived from natural sources.) And because all of the carbon in your body derives from ingested organic matter, which in turn obtains it from the atmosphere, your fingernails and the rest of the organic matter in your body are built, in part, from emissions. (via You Are Made of Waste - Issue 7: Waste - Nautilus)