“Even more important is the fact that, once discarded, glass is inert and
poses no environmental threat in a landfill. This is in stark contrast to
not only the toxic compounds commonly used in our waste, but also with
regard to the enormous volume of organic material, most of which is
unrecovered paper, along with food scraps and leaves and grass.
In past postings, I've described the reasons why we are unable to safely
manage decomposable matter that rots in the landfill, generating the
bioaccumuative methyl form mercury, a nerve gas, and the terrible greenhouse
gas methane which also transports the carcinogenic VOCs into the atmosphere.
And almost all of these landfill gases are released uncontrolled into the
atmosphere. The organic material also creates leachate that mobilizes the
toxics in the waste to, after the barriers fail, contaminate drinking water.
This is why Europe has already begun the process of banning organics from
landfills. We urgently need to confront the need to aggressively seek to
divert more and more of the organic fraction away from the landfill.”
Thanks for that perspective Peter. A dose of reality goes a long way. The average waste steam in the U.S. is comprised of about 50% to 60% organic materials (USEPA). These materials can be effectively diverted from landfill and turned into valuable soil amendments, and in some cases renewable energy, at costs competitive to existing landfill rates (even though those rates do not account for all short and long term costs). Collection systems utilizing wet/dry containers or 3-stream systems (recyclables, organics, and refuse) are a reality and are being implemented all over the continent (San Francisco, San Jose, Toronto, etc.) With these types of collection systems, organics diversion is greatly simplified and cost effective.
IMO, the biggest recycling and environmental “bang for the buck” that we can achieve in the near term would be to push for organics diversion from landfill throughout the country. To make this happen, however, we need to “pry” the waste streams away from those that benefit by hauling waste to their own landfills (vertical integration) and/or incent those big companies to participate in organics diversion. This has to occur at the municipal level in the contracting process and has to be supported at the grass roots level.
William L. Fowler
CCI US Corporation