Why Landfills Really Suck

Landfills stink, leak ooze, hurt animals and people, and swallow up large swaths of landscape. Yes, they suck. And when you consider that they are the third largest contributor to methane emissions that accelerate global warming, it's no stretch to say that they really suck.

To be fair, today's landfill is not your granddaddy's old dump. High-tech liners, leachate collection systems, methane gas recovery, and more are all part of modern engineering efforts to try and keep the mountains of waste we produce from harming us.

But as the saying goes, stuff happens, even when modern safeguards are used. Here are just a few examples:

  • In Missouri, the Bridgeton landfill has been on fire for four years running, despite $100 million spent on containment measures.
  • In Pennsylvania, the Tulleytown landfill has been ordered closed by the state because of an ongoing odor nuisance, which the operator could not abate despite millions in improvements.
  • The Newby Island landfill in California has been designated a public nuisance by the Milpitas City Council due to chronic odor problems, and they are seeking to block its expansion.
  • In Lockhart, South Carolina thick acrid smoke from a nearby landfill fire has been causing health problems.

Waste management companies spend extraordinary sums trying to keep things under control. The upshot is that garbage is getting very expensive to deal with, and there are fewer and fewer places to dump stuff.

Some States Are Trash Magnets

Waste haulers are always looking for the cheapest place that they can unload, and will travel far to do so. Pennsylvania is one state that attracts lots of out-of-state garbage (from as far away as Puerto Rico and California). Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania recently introduced legislation to try and protect his state and others from excessive dumping. Called the TRASH Act, the law allow states to restrict imports and impose higher fees on out-of-state waste.

Landfills, EPA, tipping fees

"Garbage" on the Brain

To make headway against our burgeoning garbage problem, we can begin by changing how we think about the things we don't want. For example, "garbage" is a pejorative term for something unwanted (just like "weeds" are what we call plants that we don't want). "Garbage" implies something offensive, but most of the materials we don't want and throw away are reuseable or recyclable.

The other part of the problem is that beyond the big four recyclables—i.e., glass, paper, metal, and plastic—most people don't know where or how they can recycle the things they don't want (or don't want to travel far to do so). Governmental and nongovernmental organizations alike need to help people act on their green convictions, and make it more convenient to recycle all the things they don't want.

Part of Planet Aid's mission is to stop textile waste and reduce the growth of landfills that harm our earth. That's why we place our textile collection bins in many convenient locations. Find a nearby bin today to unload your unwanted clothing.

For more on this topic see:

"Morgan Spurlock Digs Up the Trajectory of Our Trash"

"Can Cities Afford to Recycle?"

"EPA Reports Waste Volume Up, Recycling is Flat"

"Helping Solve the Municipal Waste Crisis"