complex,expensive, really big things! Fresh Kills covers 2,200 acres and has the distinction of being visible from outer space. Click on the video to learn how landfills work. (Sorry about the ad!) //science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/30218-really-big-things-americas-landfills-video.htm Landfills are controversial in relation to incinerators or waste to energy plants because the perception is that we are running out of space to put our increasing amounts of garbage. The Garbage Guru, David Steiner, CEO of the world’s largest trash company and self declared landfill lover has taken Waste Management from a scandal driven, polluting outlaw to its current phase as a leader in the sustainability movement. By 2011 they maintained more than 100 power plants, converting landfill gas to electricity for over 1.1 million homes and thousands of their clean garbage trucks used landfill gas as fuel. The company can be seen working through out the world picking up household waste in their recognizable containers designed to be emptied by their automated trucks. The company is currently buying up smaller companies that develop new ways to extract value from chemicals, minerals, fuels and trash. The new Waste Management to Materials Management strategy has an estimated $10 billion potential. If making money gets things done then this motivation can do some good for our environment as well.
The waste to energy movement has become the goal for conscientious people concerned with what our consumer culture is doing to our environment. Puente Hills Landfill, outside of Los Angeles, California, was born in that dream. Designed to swallow 10,000 tons a day with a smokestack 450 feet high (much shorter than what the landfill reached at its closing) to convert its waste to energy, it was heralded as a garbage crisis breakthrough. It ended up angering millions of constituents over the course of decades because they never realized it would be situated in their “backyard”. So, even though Californians typically lead the waste to energy and sustainability movements, they would still prefer that it occur hundreds of miles away in the desert. In the end, the communities around Puente Hills traded a state of the art power plant for a even bigger garbage mountain. It grew to 500 feet high and covered 700 acres. Taking in more money that it could ever spend, it was able to donate $1 per ton to preserving wild lands, hiking trails, parkland and wildlife preserves that was created from capped landfill. Eventually the entire Park required its own full-time ecologist and kept Sanitation employees working for years after the closing. Puente Hills became the preeminent landfill project to watch and follow.
How You Can Help: Consider the below Waste Q & A
1. If every country consumed like Americans, how many planets worth of resources would be required to meet the demand? 5
2. America has 4 percent of the world’s children. What percent of the worlds toys do Americans buy and throw away? 40%
3. How many plastic water bottles do Americans throw away every second? 694
4. How much food do Americans throw in the trash each year? 96 billion pounds
5. How many people could be fed with that wasted food? 4 million for a year
6. How many of those food dollars are spent on packaging? $1 out of every $11
7. How much waste does the US economy create to make a years worth of food, fuel, and products for one American? 1 million pounds not including waste water
8. How much of that total waste figure is recycled? 2%
9. How much energy is wasted on junk mail? 1 day’s worth could heat 250,000 homes
10. How much of your life is spent opening and throwing away junk mail? 8 months
11. How many barrels of oil are used to make 1 years worth of disposable plastic water bottles for Americans? 17 million
12. How many liters of water are needed to make one liter of bottled water? 3
13. How much disposable plastic wrap is made each year in America? enough to shrink wrap Texas
14. How many styrofoam cups do Americans throw away in a year? 25 million or enough to encircle the earth 436 times
15. How much plastic trash ends up in the ocean? The UN estimates there are about 46,000 pcs of plastic trash per sq mile of ocean and that an additional 56 million tons are dumped, blown or washed in.
This information has been extracted from Garbology Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash written by Edward Humes.
Until next week!