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Re: [greenyes] Another Perspective re: Decomposition in Landfills

On Wed, 28 Apr 2004 14:47:21 -0400, you wrote:

>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.

Currently the world pumps about 1 cubic mile of oil per year out of
the ground. Ultimately that winds up either as CO2 in the air or
waste material in our landfills. Assuming for the sake of argument
that we still have oil fields in the year 2100 we'd need to pump about
TWO cubic miles of oil/year at the rate these needs are climbing. I'm
not a great fan of the various global warming models being touted but
even I'm queasy about pouring that much carbon into the environment.
We really do have to start diverting the waste streams out of the
landfills and into recycling and/or bioenergy to reduce or even
eliminate dependence on underground oil
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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