Saturday, January 10, 2009

When It Hits The Curb It Disapears

Isn't garbage day a magical day? Like clockwork every week I awake early in the morning hours and drag my previous weeks detritus to the curb and a few hours later the garbage fairies arrive, wave their enchanted work gloves and my garbage disappears never to be heard from again. I just love the magic of the moment.

The previous statement may seem cheeky but I truly do believe a significant portion of our society believes it to be true. The reality however couldn't be further from the truth. Most of the debris we toss will actually out live us taking decades, centuries, perhaps even millennia to break down.

Landfills, believe it or not, are designed to slow down the decomposition of their contents. In order to break down, organic matter requires access to air/oxygen yet in a landfill the trash is compacted and sandwiched between numerous layers of clay and sometimes stone to increase landfill space and ultimately the landfill's lifespan.

Oxygen may not be able to reach our discarded belongings however, rainwater can as its gravitational relationship allows it to percolate deep into the many layers of debris. When water mixes with the nasty garbage juices, leachate is created which seeps into the surrounding soil in the form of a Garbage Plume. Plumes can swell rapidly and often will find their way into local water tables. Most new landfills are required to use liners to prevent plumes. The liners can be effective but are far from foolproof.
The reality, though unpleasant, is that our garbage will be around longer than we ourselves will. Let's make a decision now to reduce our own consumption and leave our squanderous ways in the past.

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