Did you know?
Did you also know?
One reason garbage in landfills does not decompose quickly is because the contents are tightly packed and covered. All in all, one of the most amazing facts is if lined up bumper to bumper a string of garbage trucks hauling the nation daily waste could reach half way to the moon.
Littler is also one of our biggest problems. Motorist and pedestrians are often blamed for littler. A few of the primary sources are loading docks, construction and demolition sites, trucks with uncovered loads, and household trash handling and its placement on the curb for collection. Litter is blown about the wind and traffic or carried by water. It moves until trapped by a curb, building or fence. Once litter has accumulated, it invites people to add more.
Used oil is another problem America is facing. Since 1000 AD, world population has tripled, while fossil fuel use has grown tenfold. In 1989, almost 60% of the nation automotive oil were changed by consumers themselves. Americans throw away enough used motor oil every year to fill 120 super tankers. Used oil from a single oil change (approximately one gallon) can ruin a million gallons of fresh water. That is surely something to think about.
+ Overall About Landfills
At least 40% of all American’s garbage is paper. Our waste problem does not seem to have an end, and it never will with so many of us not caring where or what will happen to it. Most of us just make sure our garbage is out of the house and on the cub on trash day. Sadly 73 million Americans live near a hazardous waste site. America biggest problem is we are running out of places to put it. There were 5,345 landfills in the United States and its territories in 1992. 67% of waste was landfilled in 1992 compared to 81% in 1980 and 62% in 1960. At the current pace, we’ll be generating 222 million tons of waste by the year 2000. About 130 million tons of waste end up in landfills every year. Regulations will provide minimum standards for the nation public and private landfills. It involves the use of composite liners and having an elaborate monitoring system the cost of the reg. will result in a regionalized approached for volume-based business and a dramatic decrease of publicly owned facilities. Also specifies that landfills obtain an amount sufficient to close and cap the site and perform care and maintenance for 30 years after. Every year 1.6 billion pens, two billion razors and blades, 18 billion diapers and 30 billion steels and tin cans are sitting at the bottom of a landfill somewhere.
One of the main concerns regarding nuclear technology today is over the disposal of nuclear waste. Nuclear power plants produce two types of waste. First, the fission process produces radioactive products. Most of this radioactivity remains in the fuel rods and is classified as High-Level Waste. High-level waste is highly radioactive material, such as, uranium and plutonium. The second waste product of nuclear power is the non-fuel material, such as the reactor structure and containers, which is classified as Low-Level or Intermediate Level Waste. Low level waste can be classified as the materials, which have come in contact with small amounts of high level waste.
The two types of waste, high-level and low-level, are treated very differently. Low level wastes are compacted and sent to shallow burial sites. High-Level wastes are stored in sealed containers and buried in deep geologic structures. A storage site for nuclear waste must lie in a stable area that is free of earthquakes, faulting, and other geologic activity. The site must be dry so that the waste containers cannot be corroded and the water supplies cannot be contaminated. The site also must be constructed so that the future generations will not dig into it and release radioactivity. Small amounts of radiation are released into the environment, but these amounts are not believed to be harmful. Unlike fossil – fuel plants, nuclear plants do not release solid or chemical pollutants into the atmosphere. However, when serious accidents occur, radioactivity can be released into the atmosphere and endanger people in surrounding areas. As logic has it, as power production increases, the creation of high-level radioactive wastes also increases.
+ Fresh Kills Landfill
Fresh Kills Landfill, located on 3,000 acres in Staten Island – New York City, is the largest landfill in the world, will be closed on December 2001. Since this is the only landfill of the whole city, New York has to find a new lace for garbage. Everyday, Sanitation Department barges each carrying 700 tons of garbage, go from the city’s marine transfer stations to Fresh Kills. Trucks then haul the trash to the landfill site, accompanied by an estimated 40,000 seagulls that swoop perilously close to bulldozers to the Bulk of New York daily generation of 13, 200 tons of municipal waste. The city’s businesses, using private craters, dispose of another 13,000 tons a day. This waste goes to private landfills or incinerators outside the city.
Landfill neighbors have tried to shut down the dump since before it opened in 1948, with opposition escalating over the years. Today, Fresh Kills spews 2,650 tons of methane gas daily, 5.7% of all US methane emissions. The landfill is commonly referred to as an “environmental nightmare.”
New York has 2 options for handling its waste after Fresh Kills closes:
1. Reduce & Recycle: In May, 1997, Mayor Giuliani cut the City’s recycling budget by $29.8 million, or 38%, eliminating the mixed paper recycling program less than a year after it started, and dropping recycling collection from once a week to every other for most, if not all, of the City’s residents. The City currently recycles only 14% of its garbage.
2. Site new landfills or incinerators in New York: The total number of landfills in New York State declined 87% between 1986 and 1995. In that time, 263 landfills closed, 8 new landfills opened, with an additional 10 in the planning or permitting process in 1995. While many of these closures were due to new federal standards, these statistics reflect an effort to manage waste within the state that is, at best, lackluster. Upstate officials have expressed opposition to taking New York City’s waste, and Mayor Giuliani has admitted that in-state disposal is not an option.
3. Export waste to other states: This is New York’s option of choice. The Fresh Kills closure will bring New York City’s first exports of residential waste since 1930s, but the City already exports 2.9 million tons of commercial waste each year, and undisclosed quantities of industrial waste.
Not only some landfills are out of room, but they also my pose the threat of toxicity. New York City’s Fresh Kills Landfill, the largest in the country covers 3000 acres. Every day, 18 barge-loads of garbage are added. To help you understand our problem, page one of the illustrations is a chart showing the millions tons of trash we have produced from 1960 to 1997. Paper and paper board take up 38.6% of landfills, yard waste plastics at 9.9%, metals are 7.7%, glass materials is 5.5%, and wood is at 5.3%. Other materials such as rubber, leather, etc. are at 10.1%. What we have come to realize is “we need to be a heirloom society instead of the throw-away society.” As the government of New York said “we as Americans need to be made more aware of the value of recycling and pass that knowledge on to our children. The cost of handling our garbage is the fourth biggest item – after education, police, and fire protection – in many city budgets. As we said, 4.4 pounds of trash is produced by us each day, so where does that 4.4 pounds go? Well, some goes into being recycled, but the majority of it is laid to rest in more than 2300 United States Landfills in operation today. That’s where our problem starts.
In our study of landfills and garbage period, we have found that there are serious consequences. For instance landfills produce leachate, which is run off that, can contaminate ground water. Incinerators, no mater how sophisticated, have risky emissions knowing all this it leads to another question and that is, are landfills safe?
We have learned that it is only a matter of time until even the best engineered landfill with state of the art 1999 designs will leak. Toxic elements can be carried into groundwater by leachate, which is water that becomes contaminated when it seeps through waste. It is often called garbage juice. Environmental advocates estimates that the Fresh Kills Landfills produces 1 million gallons per day of leachate. Even after the landfill closed on December 31, 2001, New York City needs to treat the leachate to stop it from leaking into New York Harbor. The modern landfills was a response to incinerators, which polluted the air, and open dumps, which stank. Dumps are places where garbage of all kinds was left to rot. The modern landfill is bottomed with clay and lined with plastic. It has systems to vent or collect methane gas and leachate, which may be processed to remove contaminants. William Rathje, who is known as “the Garbology Professor” because of his exploration of landfills, say that his studies have put an end to the notion that things decompose and degenerate in landfills. The thought that after 30 or 50 years newspaper and food would disintegrate is off-track. What happens is things become mummified? There have been hot-dogs that were found and could been recooked, and perfectly legible newspapers. Gerald Backhouse, Waste management director in Chandler, Arizona, said, “Landfills are like big Tupperware bowls preserving the trash.”
+ Polluted Air
Less than 30% of all packaged software is recycled. That leaves over 5.5 million boxes of software headed straight for our landfills and incinerators. In landfills, diskettes take over 450 years to decompose and will eventually leach oxides into local water supply. As with most plastics, incinerating diskettes causes acid rain.
Landfill gas consists of naturally-occurring methane and carbon dioxide, which form inside the landfill as the waste decomposes. As the gases form, pressure builds up inside a landfill, forcing the gases to move. Some of the gases escape through the surrounding soil or simply move upward into the atmosphere, where they drift away.
+ Health Problems
A new study by the New York State Department of Health reports that women living near solid waste landfills where has is escaping have a four-fold increased chance of bladder cancer or leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming cells).
The new study examined the occurrence of seven kinds of cancer among men and women living near 38 landfills where naturally-occurring landfill gas is thought to be escaping into the surrounding air. Of the 14 kinds of cancer studied (7 each in men and women), 10 (or 71%) were found to elevate but only two (bladder and leukemia in women) achieved statistical significance at the 5% level. The seven cancers studied were leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver, lung, kidney, bladder, and brain cancer. In women living near landfills, the incidence of all seven kinds of cancer was elevated. In men, the study found elevated (though not statistically significant) incidence of lung cancer, bladder cancer, and leukemia.
Typically, landfill gases that escape from a landfill will carry along toxic chemicals such as paint thinner, solvents, pesticides and other hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of them chlorinated.
This is not the first study to show that people living near landfills have an increased incidence of cancer. A 1995 study of families living near a large municipal solid waste landfill (the Miron Quarry) in Montreal, Quebec reported an elevated incidence of cancers of the stomach, liver, prostate, and lung among men, and stomach and cervix/uterus among women.
A 1984 study reported that men (but not women), living near the Drake Supervened site in Pennsylvania, had an excessive incidence of bladder cancers, though occupational exposures could not be ruled out as the source of those cancers.
A 1990 study found an increased incidence of bladder cancers in northwestern Illinois where a landfill had contaminated a municipal water supply with trichloroethelene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PERC), and other chlorinated solvents.
A 1989 study by the EPA [US Environmental Protection Agency] examined 593 waste sites in 339 US counties, revealing elevated cancers of the bladder, lung, stomach and rectum in counties with the highest concentration of waste sites.
The most commonly reported effect of living near a landfill is low birth weight and small size among children. The first careful study of this subject took place at Love Canal near Niagara Falls, New York. In a blinded study published in 1989, researchers found that children who had lived at least 75% of their lives near Love Canal – the notorious toxic chemical dump – had significantly shorter stature than children who lived farther away from the dump site. These results help up even after controlling for birth weight, socio-economic status, and parental height.
A previous (1984) study had shown that children who lived near Love Canal had abnormally low weight at birth. The following year, another study confirmed low birth weight in children born to parents living near Love Canal. There does not seem to be any remaining doubt that the children of Love Canal were put in harm’s way by exposure to he 20,000 tons of chemical wastes buried in their back yards. Those wastes remain buried there, and the families that have recently moved into homes at Love Canal are likely in danger too.
Studies of children living near other landfills have confirmed these findings. A study of families living near the Lipari landfill in New Jersey reported low birth weight among babies born during 1971-1975, when the landfill was thought to have leaked the greatest quantity of toxic materials into the local environment.
A study of people living near the BKK landfill in Los Angeles County, California in 1997 reported significantly reduced birth weight among children born during the period of heaviest dumping at the site.
A 1995 study of families living near a large municipal solid waste dump (the Miron Quarry) near Montreal, Quebec found a 20% increased likelihood of low birth weight among those most heavily exposed to gases from the landfill.
At least five studies have reported finding an increased chance of birth defects among babies whose parents live near a landfill. In Wales, the chances of birth defects were doubled among families living near the Nant-y-Gwyddon landfill. A 1990 study in the San Francisco region found a 1.5-gold greater chance birth defects of the heart and circulatory system among newborns whose parents lived near a solid or hazardous waste site.
A 1990 study of 590 hazardous waste sites in New York State found a 12% increase in birth defects in families living within a mile of a site. A 1997 study of women living within a quarter-mile of a Superfund site showed a two-to four-fold increased chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect, or a heart defect. A preliminary report in 1997 found a statistically significant 33% increased chance of a birth defect occurring in babies born to families living within 1.9 miles of any of 21 landfills in 10 European countries.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently reviewed 46 studies of the human health effects of landfills. They concluded, “landfill sites may represent real risks in certain circumstances.” They also pointed out that exact mechanism of the hazard remains unknown. Is the biggest hazard air or water pollution? No one knows. But he evidence seems overwhelming: living near a landfill can be dangerous. So long as we remain a society addicted to chlorine chemistry and other toxic technologies, our discards will be toxic, and the places where we bury them will be hazardous to health for a long time to come.
Some of you might be wondering who make s the most garbage? California makes more garbage than any other state, according to Biocycle Magazine. It generated 56 millions tons in 1998. Texas is right behind California with 33.8 million tons followed by New York 30.2 million (see illustration on page 2.)
It is also a costly problem for us. Highway departments spend millions of tax dollars and many hours annually picking litter – money and time needed for more important services. Local, state and federal governments also spend money removing litter left by careless park visitors.
Diskettes are recyclable! Green disks are recycling between 5,00 and 50,000 pounds paper and plastic materials from software packages. Annually that is over 12,500,000 pounds. Green disk recycles or reuses over 99.5% of the materials it receives for recycling. That is less than 10 pounds per ton in landfills. By recycling their unwanted obsolete and returned software packages, companies save hundreds of thousands of dollars in dumping fees and storage cost.
If America would spend more time recycling all our paper trash we would save at least 4.6 average sized trees.
Can we burn it? That is a very good question. In fact the idea of burning waste to create energy seemed to make a lot of sense. But in practice it has not turned out that way because of the very high cost and problems of environmental pollution. There are 110 plants in the United States that burn municipal waste to get rid of it or use it as fuel to generate power. The word “incinerator” dismays industry representatives at the Integrated Waste Services Association in Washington DC, Maria Zannes said that the plants that burn municipal garbage to create steam and electricity are one of the cleanest Sources of Power in the world. Reason being is it destroys bacteria, pathogens and other harmful elements usually found in garbage. Burning also cuts its volume by about 90%.
Most of Americans think it will not make a difference if they try to do something about the trash problem. For the simple reason that they feel not enough people care so how could one person per one thousand make a difference. The answer is that is one person less creating a problem and a threat to our children, and teaching them in the right direction tomorrow.
To find out if a landfill is sate in your community ask some questions. What are the limitations or restrictions in the permits under which the landfill operates? What precautions are taken to keep hazardous waste, like medical waste, out of the landfill? And what inspection and monitoring is required to make sure nothing is leaking out of the landfill? When is a dump in a landfill?