Green Tip – Garbage

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds per week and 1,600 pounds a year.

A landfill is basically a hole in the earth or mound on the earth where waste (garbage) is deposited.  Landfills are designed to keep the waste, including water related waste (leachate) from contaminating the surrounding environment.

There are two types of landfills:

  • Dry Tomb
  • Bioreactor

Both types of landfills produce leachate and methane gas as a result of decomposition.  The difference between them has to do with rate of decomposition.

Decomposition is the process by which organic material is broken down into simpler forms of matter. (Wikipedia).  In order for decomposition to take place water and air must be present.

In a dry tomb landfill or typical landfill, the garbage is dumped, compacted, covered and sealed by layers of earth or other matter.  Liquid is diverted – no water is allowed in and an airtight seal is created with the covering.  Decomposition is impeded – dramatically slowing the decay.  Leachate is collected and is contained in collection ponds and is treated like any other sewage/wastewater.  Methane gas is allowed to escape into the air (vented) or is burned off.

Bioreactors convert solid waste into usable energy (methane) by introducing fluids that accelerate decomposition.  A bioreactor landfill is constructed in such a way as to catch the leachate and recycle it through the garbage.  Bioreactors are sealed and the methane that is produced is channeled to a waste energy power facility.  The size of the solid waste is reduced from 10-30% – so more waste can be added.  If all landfills were bioreactors the methane could produce enough energy to power 3 million homes.

So, what can you do to decrease the amount of garbage going to landfills?

The easiest way to reduce your waste is to reduce your use.

Use refillable water bottles, cloth napkins, coffee mugs, reusable bags for your shopping.  Do you really need that new gadget, piece of furniture or clothing?  Squeeze the life out of the stuff you already have!

Repurpose items that are no longer usable in their current form.

Reuse empty glass jars to store food, use produce netting as scrubbing material, use old baking soda as a cleaner, use construction debris for new projects, use coffee grounds as plant fertilizer, freeze your table scraps and make a stew, melt bits of soap bars together for a new bar, make a yoga mat bag from old jeans.  Turn your trash into treasure!

Recycle when there is no other option.

Recycling allows items to be broken down into their basic components and be made into something else.  Much less energy is used to make items from recycled material.  This keeps waste out of the landfill.

Make some new choices about garbage:  choose to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Keep things out of the landfill and support the creation of bioreactor landfills.

 

Make less garbage!  Educate everyone in your household to be a reducer, reuser and recycler!

 

 

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