Friday, April 17, 2009

Superfund Sight

I took this picture of the Omega Hills North landfill earlier this year, just outside the northwest corner of Milwaukee County. Gross! This was an EPA Superfund site at one time, now deleted from the National Priorities List- not because the hazard is gone, but "because it is being addressed under authorities other than Superfund." Oh, and there is a fence around it (which doesn't prevent the critters from getting in, or the trash from being blown out on windy days). Here is another view of what I used to (I swear) think was "rolling hills." However, there is a brighter side. In this though-provoking article from the Washington Post, Brigid Schulte tells us,
"Along with the stock market and the foreclosure rate, a less-heralded barometer has signaled the arrival of hard times: the landfill.
In a wasteful society that typically puts 254 million tons of unwanted stuff at the curb to be thrown away each year, landfill managers said they knew something was amiss in the economy when they saw trash levels start steadily dropping last year. Some are reporting declines of up to 30 percent.

'The trash man is the first one to know about a recession because we see it first,' said Richard Weber, manager of the Loudoun County, Va., landfill.

The most lasting change to the waste stream — manufacturers cutting down on packaging — was under way before the recession, and will stick because it saves companies money, said Chaz Miller, director of state programs for the National Solid Wastes Management Association.

Wal-Mart has promised to cut packaging by 5 percent. Amazon, McDonald's, Heinz and Coca-Cola all have redesigned products and packaging to reduce waste. Cadbury has come out with chocolate eco-eggs to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging every year by more than 200 tons."
(Emphasis mine- 200 tons, just from chocolate eggs?)

In short, we are learning that a good way to save money is by simply not buying more consumer items, which has the added benefit of reducing our consumptive waste generation. What else can we do, though? Repurposing items- for instance, if you have items (like blankets or towels) that are too tattered to give to a thrift shop, could an animal shelter use them? Can you use some old promotional tote bags for grocery shopping instead of buying the new "green" ones that are fashionable? (Believe me, thrift stores generally have a bountiful supply. I acquired mine in such a manner. They are easy to make, too, if you have some extra fabric lying around. Our grandmothers in the first American Depression had a mantra: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." But then, many people have lost these necessary skills.


Anonymous said...

Don't you wonder what precentage of the garbage going into landfills consists of disposable diapers? I believe the percentage is higher than you think. Why doesn't anyone speak out against using them? What's wrong with more mothers using good old-fashioned cloth diapers? Novel idea, don't you think.

The River Otter said...

I just ran across (ok, and read too) a book entitled something like "Your diaper-free baby." Now there's a novel (and ancient, as in the novel "Clan of the Cave Bear") for you. I don't know what the percentage of disposable diapers in landfills is. Believe me, though, plenty of people speak out against them. I think though the overarching problem is that most people don't realize there is any alternative to what they are currently doing.