Are We At Fault For Landfills Being the Armpit of the Environment?

There is a home for the unwanted things of the world, things that may have broken, ripped, spoiled, or been soiled, it is called a trash can. If you are like most americans you have one, probably sitting under the sink, next to the fridge, or it could be hidden in one of those fancy pull out drawers, just sitting and waiting to eat your discarded matter. The best part about the trash can you may ask? The best part is you get to choose everything you put in it and send to the unknown land beyond the trash can. Most know this mysterious place as a landfill, a toxic place that causes diseases and contamination to animals, soils, and water of the surrounding areas. Contrarily, the environmental minority that actually has knowledge about landfills knows that there are state and government laws and regulations that landfills must comply to in order to open and function. Lynn Scarlett from National Center for Policy Analysis shares from her article of “Environmental Myths and Realities” these three laws 1) landfills are not be sited in areas with permeable soils 2) they not exist where there are shallow water tables or near wetlands and 3) and all are required to have a leachate collection system, a system that prohibits the flow of water created in landfills into the surrounding unprotected areas, but instead into sumps where the liquid can be properly disposed of (pictured below). I have been to the landfill in my town and they have mulitple sumps that are placed on clay pits and covered with a large black canvas’, my community is small, but every landfill that follows laws is a strong contribution to the preservation of the land, and a safe way to dispose of the community’s unwanted things.

Disposable Products are Bad for the Environment and Fuel Landfill Expansion

The “reuse everything” extremist against landfills insist that the use of anything disposable is directly harmful to the environment and we should all use multi-use items. These multi use items, such as the popular Hydro Flask, cloth diapers, and decorated shopping bags, cause more harm to the environment than ladfills. Scarlett addresses pros and cons of the above, first, aseptic packaging that is used to ship juice, dairy, and other foods, which is the most energy effiecent way to package and ship goods. The aseptic box allows product to be shipped without refrigeration so you can ship more in one truck, therfore eliminating mass carbon footprints from shipping companys. The University of Southern Indiana says that there are 16 Billion diapers disposed in landfills each year, this amounts to a whopping 90 times more landfill space than that of cloth diapers. Interestingly enough though, cloth diapers expend 3 times more energy to makes and use six times more water than disposable diapers. Last, plastic shopping bags compared to those of decoration or paper, use up to 40% less energy to create and they hold less landfill space, less water contamination and less air pollution when decomposing. One thing both reusable and disposable items do have in common though: Once used to their fullest, both end up being thrown away.

The Trashcan is the Only Way Out

The key difference between reusable and disposable products is that there is more than one way to discard disposable products, giving you a choice about how you dispose of your garbage. One examined by the authors of “Bright Hub Engineering” is incineration. Incineration saves a lot of money on transportation to landfills from cities, lowering the carbon footprint right off the bat, most importantly it lessens the demand on the land needed for landfills. “Waste-to-Energy” plants can also use incineration to provide electricity which can cut down on cost with the use of self produced energy. What about all the gas give off? Things like Electrostatic precipitators, and faberic filters eliminate 95% of the gases from air immersion, making it practically all steam given off. According to the NCPA if the Untied States used 100% incineration it would only compose half of a percent of all combined gasses in the ozone.

Steam coming out of a Waste-to-Energy plant

As promised the second alternative form you can use to eliminate the amount of waste in landfills is Composting! shows how all those left over food scraps and biodegradable trash you put in landfills can be used to better the environment we love. Composting is a natural way to help plants grow which produces more oxygen and lowers a carbon food print. Using products like dispoable diapers and food scraps in your compost not only helps those lovely plants in your garden flourish, but it also eliminates a lot of the chemical contaminating that occurs in landfills. USI mentions that 16% of the contents found in landfills is food scrapes, that is 16% of the products every community chooses to throw away that can be eliminated by choosing the life of compostation. Using compost on plants also elimiates the amount of pestisides nesseccary to grow most foods, and kill of unwated weeds without the use of chemicals in the ground to overall help nurture our soils.

A Garden that used compost on one side, but not on the other

Choices Can Be Made

Landfills are not the armpit of the environment, and disposable products are not all bad, as showed they have importance when it comes to saving the worlds water and energy supplies. The consumers choice to fill the land with the unwanted disposables and reuasables while ignoring the more sustainable resources to get rid of them, is not the landfills fault. The hard working and regulated landfill takes the fall for our desiscion to fill them with things that can be disposed more environmentally friendly.

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