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4 Facts About Landfills That’ll Keep You Up at Night

July 1, 2014

When most of us toss something into the trash, we give it no further thought. We’ve done our part – consume item, dispose of item, move on. Trash is an unpleasant but necessary part of our daily lives, and most of us are happy to end our relationship with a product as soon as it ceases to offer any value.

But despite the (very understandable) dismissive attitude most people have towards trash, it’s a subject that we need to think about. Almost all of our trash ends up in landfills, and it’s a lot of trash: an average American contributes 56 tons of trash per year that ends up in landfills.

This wouldn’t be a problem if landfills were the magical, bottomless cure for trash so many people believe them to be, but landfills are actually kind of scary. Here are some reasons why:

  1. We’re running out of space. We’re generating more trash than we have at any point in history, but we’re alarmingly running out of landfills at a rate of one a day.
  2. They’ve been found to emit dangerous gases. When all of our trash ends up in one big heap, that heap becomes a toxic landmass. The biggest offender is carbon dioxide and methane, which is emitted into the ecosystem when trash begins its decomposition process. Testing of these gasses has revealed that they also sometimes contain unnatural elements like paint thinners, solvents, pesticides and even dry-cleaning fluid. This gasses are a serious problem – a study by the New York State Department of Health reported that women living near solid waste landfills have a four-fold increased chance of bladder cancer or leukemia.
  3. Because processing all that trash releases carbon, landfills are significantly contributing to climate change. Negatively impacting the environment obviously leads to problems that affect every living creature on this planet.
  4. Landfills are made up of all kinds of trash that could have been handled or disposed of in a different way. Much of the burden placed on landfills is completely unnecessary, but consumers are often uneducated on the subject or otherwise unfamiliar with their options.

If you’re interested in doing things differently to lessen the insane demand for landfills, keep in mind that simple things like recycling or choose re-usable or permanent items over disposable ones can make a big difference.

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