Waste Disposal

One of the points made in the speculative documentary Soylent Green  is that humans use so many resources yet dispose of them so carelessly. They portray the outcome of such careless disposal can create toxic waste harmful to our entire existence...and threat to eliminate it. Although the comments made in the movie are quite exaggerated, at the rate that we are currently disposing our waste and the negligence with the way we get rid of it...its easy to see that a harmful future such as that discussed in the film.

What we do with our trash:

- The U.S. Environmental Agencies attempt to establish guidelines and minimums for the amount of waste put into landfills but many fail to properly regulate them. Most landfills in the U.S. consume amounts of waste far more than permitted.

- Such as the “Fresh Kills Landfill “ in Staten Island which is claimed to be
the largest landfill in the world, as well as the worlds most large man-made land.

- U.S. landfills consist of 40% to 50% paper waste, 20% to 30% construction debris, and 1.4% disposable diapers.

- The abuse of these landfills results in methane emissions that arise from the debris and toxins within the waste.

- The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is an organization that seeks to help the problems that come from such abused landfills.  Volunteers are encouraging the recovery and use of landfill gas as a means for engery source.

- Every year, the United States generates approximately 230 million tons of "trash"--about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfill

- More than 70 percent of the estimated landfilled waste can be used and recycled,although these purposes have been neglected.

- Of the valuable materials found in landfills are glass, metal, and paper. These products can reduce the demand on virgin sources of these materials and eliminate potentially severe environmental, economic, and public health problems.

Where waste gets toxic:

- The waste within landfills contain one or more of 39 carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic compounds at levels that exceed established limits (includingmany solvents, pesticides, and paint strippers);

 - The landfill is reactive or unstable enough to explode or release toxic fumes (including    acids, bases, ammonia, and chlorine bleach); or

- The waste within landfills has the power to erode metal containers such as tanks, drums, and barrels (such as industrial cleaning agents and oven and drain cleaners).

- The EPA has a list of more than 500 specific hazardous wastes found within landfills.

Where does the toxic waste come from:

-Businesses such as metal finishers, gas stations, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, and photo developers produce many toxic waste products.
-These by-products include sulfuric acid, heavy metals found in batteries, and silver-bearing waste, which comes from photo finishers, printers, hospitals, schools, dentists, doctors, and veterinarians.
-Heavy metals, solvents, and contaminated wastewater result from paint manufacturing. Photo processing also creates organic chemicals, chromium compounds, phosphates, and ammonium compounds.
-Even cyanide can be a by-product, resulting from electroplating and other surface-treatment processes.
**If you think industry is the only source of hazardous waste, you may be surprised. There is hazardous household waste as well. For example, do you use any of the following items?
-automotive products, such as gasoline, antifreeze, and batteries
-oil-based paints and thinners
-pool chemicals
-pesticides, herbicides, and other garden products
-household cleaning products

*Where do you stand? Calculate your carbon footprint here

The BIGGER picture:

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a mass of marine garbage in the North Pacific Ocean estimated to be located between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N.

 -The mass encompasses over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
-The Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.

- Despite its size and density the patch is not visible from satellite, since it consists primarily of suspended particulates in the upper water column. 

-The mass is not not visible from space, neither does it appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the patch is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average.

-Although many media and advocacy reports have suggested that the patch extends over an area larger than the continental U.S., recent research sponsored by the National Science Foundation suggests the affected area may be twice the size of Hawaii.

- the Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents

Who’s trying to help:

                                                                         Project Kaisei

How we’re a part of the problem:

-The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year.

-Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.

-Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Westchester NY, Berkeley, and Malibu California have all banned Styrofoam foodware. Laguna Beach and Santa Monica have banned all polystyrene  foodware.

-During 2009’s International Coastal Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy found that plastic bags were the second-most common kind of waste found, at 1 out of ten items picked up and tallied.

-Over 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the U.S. each year. Only 18 million pounds of that, about one quarter of 1 percent, is recycled.3
Chlorine production for PVC uses almost as much energy as the annual output of eight medium-sized nuclear power plants each year.

-After Ireland created a 15-cent charge per plastic bag in 2002, bag consumption dropped by 90 percent. In 2008, the average person in Ireland used 27 plastic bags, while the average person in Britain used 220. The program has raised millions of euros in revenue.

-The state of California spends about 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfill each year, and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from streets.

-Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste.

-Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove.

-Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000. The recycled product can be sold for $32.

-When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.

-The City of San Francisco determined that it costs 17 cents for them to handle each discarded bag.

 -In 2003, 290 million tires were discarded. 130 million of these tires were burned as fuel.
-The estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.

-Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, an extra million tons of waste is generated each week.

-38,000 miles of ribbon are thrown away each year, enough to tie a bow around the Earth.

- Paper and paperboard made up 31% of municipal waste. Plastics were 12%.

- only 23.1% of glass disposed of was recycled, and only 7.1% of plastics and 21.1% of aluminum.

For more statistics go HERE


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