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[greenyes] Another Perspective re: Decomposition in Landfills

CRI gets fairly frequent inquiries about how long it takes various
containers to decompose in a landfill. The implication of the questioner is
usually: the shorter the decomposition time, the better. They also assume
that decomposition is a always a good thing; they think landfill
decomposition bears some resemblance to humus formation on a forest floor or
the compost bin in your backyard.

'Taint so (no pun intended).

As Peter pointed out, modern sanitary [sic] landfills are designed not to
permit air and moisture in, thus slowing down decomposition, but they will
ultimately fail. So the question we should be asking is: what are the
by-products of decomposition for various materials in a landfill, and how
will these affect groundwater drinking sources once the leachate plumes have
migrated there? I shudder to think about the half-full nail polish bottles
and myriad of other household chemicals simmering in landfills today.

Another point many people miss, especially the anti-recyclers we've heard
about over the past year on this listserve (Michael Moore, the Denver
newspaper, Penn & Teller, Cato Institute...) is that environmental damages
happening in our nation's landfills pale in comparison to the environmental
damages that result from replacing all these un-recycled consumer products
with new products made from virgin materials and vast quantities of energy.
So many of "goods" we use, so many of the raw materials used to fuel our
consumer society, are imported--even the energy to manufacture the goods is
imported. We don't see what happens to communities near the coal and
bauxite mines, the oil wells and hydroelectric dams, the refineries, the
smelters, etc. THIS is where the adage "out of sight/out of mind" really
applies, and THIS is why landfilling recyclables really stinks.


Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

Home Office:
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
Email: jgitlitz@no.address

Container Recycling Institute headquarters:
1911 N. Ft. Myer Dr. #702
Arlington, VA 22209-1603
Tel. (703) 276-9800
Fax: (703) 276-9587

On 4/27/04 5:26 PM, OrionCA at orionca@no.address wrote:

> On Tue, 27 Apr 2004 11:40:29 -0600, you wrote:
>> And not only do they guard the dumpster at their sites, they have locally
>> threatened litigation if the material is scavenged once it hits the big hole
>> in the ground we call the landfill. The standard response from the Wal Marts
>> of the world is that they believe donating these goods will engender
>> unwanted competition and missed sales opportunities.
> The "official reason" is that allowing people to scavenge from their
> dumpsters and the landfills creates a liability issue for the owners.
> If you fall and break your neck pulling a lamp out of my dumpster,
> your family sues me. Part of it is the competition concern, too.
>> The fact that they are willing to bury these dollars further points to the
>> most basic problem with the mega-retailer, they sell junk....engineered
>> favorite example: a dish drying rack for $2.99 (what a
>> deal) that you will replace in six months when it falls apart, so you buy
>> another, and another, and another because it was only $2.99!
> "planned obsolescence", yes.
>> Lowest Prices means one thing to me, cheapest goods.
>> All y'all out there on this list should be outraged not because they
>> landfill unsold merchandise, but because everything they sell is guaranteed
>> to be landfilled soon after purchase. The business model of the mega
>> retailer is based on this very have to keep the people
>> coming back for do you bring them back....sell them junk in the
>> first place and make the buyer feel all warm and fuzzy because they got such
>> a great deal and they will be satisfied with pitching it six months later.
>> And how about Plastic Bag Recycling? You are truly fortunate if your local
>> discount chain accomplishes this seemingly impossible task. Maybe I have
>> been living in the few places where they bury all the bags they collect, or
>> maybe the recycling of them is the anomaly, but I have yet to find a store
>> who accepts the bags out front who isn't sending them straight to the
>> compactor out back.
>> I have many issues with the ubiquitous discount chains; from bull dozing
>> local zoning and land use regs to the complete disregard for resource
>> responsibility.....outrage can be born of almost everything they do, so
>> really do not be surprised when the junk they didn't sell ends up
>> least they're not passing the disposal cost onto the people
>> who can afford it the least!
> You have to learn to how to apply the WIIFM principle: "What's In It
> For Me?" There's no point in asking a major corporation to do
> something nice for the sake of doing something nice - even if the
> board is made up of saints they have to answer to their stockholders
> who are usually more concerned with quarterly dividends than saving
> the environment and they'll be kicked out in favor of less
> environmentally-friendly board members if they can't show how it helps
> the bottom line.
> Take the TDP plant in Carthage, MMO. It converts 200T/day of turkey
> offal and other sewage from ConAgra's Butterball Turkey Plant there
> into biodiesel and fertilizer. ConAgra sells the idea to its
> shareholders because not only are they making a small profit from the
> sale of the oil to a local power plant they're not paying landfill
> fees on the garbage anymore. If it cost them more to run than they
> are saving they'd probably shut it down and go back to the old method.
> --
> I'm on a journey in search of myself.
> If I get back first, let me know that I'm
> looking for myself and don't let me leave.
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