dcsimg The Get Rich Slowly Forums • View topic - Who cares about garbage in landfills?

  GRS Home  Forum Home
Bank Rates Center
   Savings Account Rates
   Money Market Rates
   Highest CD Rates
Insurance Rates Center
  Auto           Health
   Life              Home
Mortgage Rates Center
  Mortgage Rates
  Mortgage Quotes

Last visit was:
A place for Get Rich Slowly readers to ask questions
and exchange ideas
It is currently Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:11 pm




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 20 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:26 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: Ottawa, Canada
This is something I've often wondered about. Many people, on this blog and others, have cited reducing landfill volume as justification for some extremely frugal activities. However, this makes me wonder. What difference does it really make?

Say I use a bunch of plastic things, and I don't recycle. They end up in a landfill somewhere, buried by 50 feet of dirt.

So what?

Honestly, who cares?

What difference does it make? To someone walking across that land, does it really matter what's 50 feet beneath them?

I mean, think about it. Right now, wherever you are, what's 50 feet underneath you? Chances are, you're at home right now. So if you could dig down 50 feet, all you'd find is rock. How would your life change if it was a plastic bottle instead of dirt? It wouldn't! Not in the least! So what's really the problem with landfills? Why is burying our garbage really a problem? As long as the stuff isn't leeching toxic chemicals into the water table, then who really cares? So it takes 50,000 years to decompose, so what? The rock 50 feet beneath you right now has been there for several millennia - is it really affecting your life? Of course not.

My point is, I think the argument about landfills and "the environment" is grossly overstated. I think it's actually a non-issue. I think burying our (non-toxic) waste is a perfectly fine way of disposing it, and doesn't actually harm the environment at all. Nobody cares what's 50 feet beneath you. It could be clay, granite, or garbage bags full of diapers. It doesn't change your life one whit.

Opinions? Agree/disagree?


Last edited by kombat on Sat Apr 17, 2010 3:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:37 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:16 pm
Posts: 959
..

_________________
Be what you want to attract.


Last edited by fantasma on Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 3:47 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: Ottawa, Canada
fantasma wrote:
wouldn't it depend on where you bury the trash? say not near an acquifer or a lake or any fresh water spring?


kombat wrote:
As long as the stuff isn't leeching toxic chemicals into the water table, then who really cares?


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:03 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:16 pm
Posts: 959
kombat wrote:
fantasma wrote:
wouldn't it depend on where you bury the trash? say not near an acquifer or a lake or any fresh water spring?


kombat wrote:
As long as the stuff isn't leeching toxic chemicals into the water table, then who really cares?

sorry kombat, 4am reading skills are bad.

_________________
Be what you want to attract.


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 7:08 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Haha, no problem. :)


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:59 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
Kombat,

I actually thought you were joking untilI read what you said closely - now I know you are serious.

I'm personally not exactly an environmentalist. I think it is important to take care of teh planet we live on but I also think most environmentalists take things farther than is necessary. I think people who "do not believe in global warning" are idiots. Global warming is a fact that is well documented and measurable. But I am not convinced that humans are the cause. We know far too little about it.

I say that stuff because I don't want you to take me as some radical enviromentalist.

You hit upon but dismissed the real problem. Stuff leaches into the ground water from landfills. There are very few categories of waste that are not toxic in some way. White paper leaches dioxins. The inks from packaging are bad at some level. Pills that people throw out are not broken down and already seem to be making it into the food supply. Toss out a computer board and you are introducing toxic heavy metals. Canned goods are coated with a chemical that makes people sick. Of course there are things you can bury and they remain inert but people don't bother to separate them.

Burying our waste is also problematic because it is unsustainable. If we started taking all of our waste and just buring it we would run out of space at some point, maybe 2-3 hundred years from now but sometime.

You as a human should also probably be embarrased by the fact that there are two man made structures visible from space - the great wall of china and the Fresh Kills landfill inNew York. How would a visitor to your house judge you if the only thing they could see as they approached was your trash pile and something you built to fight your neighbors?

It's really not something I get worked up about. But I think you are missing the main issue - it's not that burying trash is bad, it's that ou can't easil separate the bad stuff that poisons the water supply from the harmless waste.


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 1:39 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1337
The risk of contamination from modern landfills is relatively small:

http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/landfill.htm

Probably the main issue is that much of what we treat as "waste" could actually be reused or recycled, so chucking stuff out represents a significant lost opportunity.

This fact sheet provides some interesting facts and figures:

http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008rpt.pdf


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 1:51 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
brad wrote:
The risk of contamination from modern landfills is relatively small:

http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/landfill.htm

Probably the main issue is that much of what we treat as "waste" could actually be reused or recycled, so chucking stuff out represents a significant lost opportunity.

This fact sheet provides some interesting facts and figures:

http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008rpt.pdf


Sure, it's true we can mitigate leaching and groundwater contamination by lining and by placement in "safe" areas. But you still end up with a pile of contaminated soil.

Personally I am not as careful as I should be about what I throw away so what I wrote was somewhat hypocritical. But I still say that the risk of contamination is probably the biggest reason to be careful about landfills.

I actually have a pet peeve about the recycling program where I live. We get a barrel that is picked up once a week. A truck comes around and picks up a barrel at each individual house. Based on my calculation of the energy lost in accelerating and stopping the truck every 50 feet, it uses more energy to run the program than we save by recycling.

My belief is that te only resource that is truly in short supply in the world is energy. If we had adequate energy supplies we could do all sorts of things to reuse and even clean up everything else. So any time I see a recycling or other program that is a net consumer of energy I am dismayed. Recycling aluminum is tremendously beneficial since breaking down bauxite is very energy intensive. But most other recycling is little more than a feel-good effort.


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:28 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1337
Here are some extracts from EPA's "Frequent Questions" on recycling. The energy benefits are not limited to aluminum:

Harvesting, extracting, and processing the raw materials used to manufacture new products is an energy-intensive activity. Reducing or nearly eliminating the need for these processes, therefore, achieves huge savings in energy. Recycling aluminum cans, for example, saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its virgin source, bauxite. The amount of energy saved differs by material, but almost all recycling processes achieve significant energy savings compared to production using virgin materials.

In 2000, recycling resulted in an annual energy savings of at least 660 trillion BTUs, which equals the amount of energy used in 6 million households annually. In 2005, recycling is conservatively projected to save 900 trillion BTUs, equal to the annual energy use of 9 million households.

For more information on recycling and energy reduction, check out the EPA brochure Puzzled About Recycling's Value? Look Beyond the Bin: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/downloads/benefits.pdf


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:46 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
Interesting. In my area we had free garbage pickup twice a week (of course not actually free, we paid for it in our city sales taxes and property taxes). Some environmental whackos got control of the city council and convinced everyone that we should recycle. The program would pay for itself because we could sell the newsprint and other waste.

Five years later, we PAY $14 a month, $168 a year for garbage pickup, once a week. This is necessitated by the fact that the city is unable to sell the recycled products. They have to PAY a company to haul off the recyclable materials. We got scr3wed!

So excuse me if I don't have much faith in what the EPA says. Recycling aluminum saves energy. The rest of the claims are variations on a theme. Some things actually take MORE energy to make from recycling. Paper, for example is of lower quality when recycled and generally requires more toxic bleaching.

Recycling is another one of those things that looks good on paper, and can be great if implemented properly. But it is really not being done right and no one wants to admit that. Glass, for example, is usually produced near sources of sand, it's raw material. When we recycle glass we have to truck it back to its source, expending energy, and there is very little, if an energ savings in using recycled glass instead of virgin sand. So, aside from keeping it out of landfills, I see very little benefit. And glass is one of teh most easily recycled materials.


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 3:00 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
To quote the EPA:

"Mesa, Arizona (population 314,000), is one city that saved money by
recycling. When the city integrated curbside recycling into its solid waste
management system, it was able to reduce the number of garbage pick-ups
from twice per week to just once. To reduce costs further, the city also
upgraded its fleet of collection trucks (thus reducing labor and maintenance
costs), streamlined collection routes, and initiated staff productivity"

This is almost exactly what was done in Tucson! Reducing the number of garbage pickups from twice per week to once per week was not a "result" of recycling...it was a sacrifice made to make the recycling program look cost effective. It means garbage sits around longer. The total number of pickups per week is still two - one for recycling, one for garbage. But they now need twice as many trucks. How many decades does it take for the benefits to recoup the resources needed to produce and supports dozens of additional trucks?

Initiated staff productivity? Oh yeah. What that means is that they laid off a bunch of city workers and hired a private company to manage the recycling program and pay the workers near minimum wage instead. Look it up!

That EPA document is almost completely spin. While I would not suggest there are outright lies in there, when I read the parts that deal with issues I am familiar with, like what was done in Mesa, I can clearly see that it spins the positive issues and ignores the harm that was done as well as the costs like extra fuel and energy for running twice as many trucks and the costs for paying sorters and companies to haul off the recyclables. In Tucson I know the recycling program is costing the city an enormous amount of money that we cannot afford. That has come to light this spring in the debate over the budget and there is a movement to get rid of it entirely if it cannot be profitable.


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: Ottawa, Canada
DoingHomework,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Your instincts were right - I am completely serious. You raise a valid point regarding things leeching into the water table, but I think it is overstated, and I'll tell you why.

The thing is, virtually every single thing we could possibly put in a landful started out underground already. There's nothing we can bury that wasn't already underground at some point. It's not like we had an alien cargo ship import a bunch of lithium and mercury and whatever else from another planet, and now we're contaminating Earth with it - it was already here. Mercury is mined. Uranium is mined. Oil is drilled. All this stuff starts out in the Earth anyway. If it wasn't contaminating the water before we mined it and processed it, then surely it's possible to put it back in the ground without contaminating the water. We just have to be smart about where we bury it. But it clearly can safely exist beneath dirt for thousands of years and not harm us. It was there before - all I'm saying is what's wrong with putting it back there once we're done with it?


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:03 am 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
Kombat,

I typed a long message but the system ate it.

Basically, just because something comes out of the ground does not mean that we can do whatever we want, process it, concentrate it, and put it back in the ground safely.

Modern lined landfills are quite safe as brad pointed out and the real loss is probably the loss in economic value of the land since it cannot be used for the same purposes anymore. (Would you want to live on top of a landfill?)


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:44 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: Ottawa, Canada
DoingHomework wrote:
the real loss is probably the loss in economic value of the land since it cannot be used for the same purposes anymore. (Would you want to live on top of a landfill?)


This is exactly the type of mentality I'm talking about. Why wouldn't I want to live on property that was a former landfill? If it's covered in a sufficiently thick layer of dirt, and the land is firm enough to build on, what's the problem?

In fact, there's a park in my hometown that used to be the local garbage dump. It became "full" when I was a kid, so they covered it in dirt, and landscaped it. Now the land holds 3 baseball diamonds, a soccer field, a playground, and more. It's been that way literally for decades. The land wasn't wasted - it's being used! It's called Bible Hill Recreation Park, in Nova Scotia - look it up!

This is a perfect example of exactly what I'm talking about. The town buried there garbage, and then found a new use for the land. It's not being wasted, it's not going to sit there, "contaminated" and unusable for centuries - it's being used right now. The kids running around the bases playing baseball don't care what's buried 30 feet beneath them. Whether it's diapers, kitty litter, broken down 8-track players, or solid rock - it makes no difference to them. That's my point. It's a safe and viable solution to disposing of garbage.

It's my opinion that people have an irrational fear of landfills.


Top
Offline Profile   
 Post subject: Re: Who cares about garbage in landfills?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:03 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
Posts: 5372
Yeah, you're probably right. It would not be my first choice of a place to live but it probably is no big deal. I think the biggest issue with the "came out of the ground originally" argument is that we process and concentrate stuff to the point that what was once harmless no longer is.

It reminds me of a story I heard once about a field in Italy (not far from Florence but I do not recall exactly where). It was contaminated with PCBs or som eother noxious chemicals. They simply covered it in 6 feet of dirt in the 1980s and built a playground on top of it. They monitor it and have never detected any of the nasty chemicals on the surface.

In the US it would have become a Superfund site and we would have spent billions cleaning it up.


Top
Offline Profile E-mail   
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 20 posts ]  Moderators: kombat, bpgui, JerichoHill Go to page 1, 2  Next


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
Theme created StylerBB.net & kodeki