Inside a Landfill – Part 2

Courtesy of Seeds of Change

While landfills across the country are modernizing to enhance biodegradability, space is still a big concern. We are disposing at such a rate that it’s difficult for the earth to keep up. Landfills may be employing technology to protect the environment, but when our stuff gets packed into the earth in such a way that there is no oxygen, how can the microbes that break down the material survive to do their job?

Many years ago, a professor at the University of Arizona formed a group called the Garbage Project to find out just what is in our landfills. Surprisingly, Dr. William Rathje discovered what we think degrades quickly, doesn’t always. For example, in 1989 his team dug up a newspaper from 1952 that could be read perfectly. And I think we’ve all heard how long hotdogs last in the landfill?

The lesson here is that we all have junk that may end up in the landfill some day, and keeping paper and food waste out of the landfill could save precious space that is required to allow landfill materials to properly degrade. With space, oxygen allows enzymes and microbes to thrive and efficiently break down stuff in landfills.

According to Michigan Technological University, many landfills nowadays are experimenting with injecting water, oxygen, and even living organisms into the earth to promote biodegradation. Unfortunately, this is a costly process that is difficult to administer on a continual basis. Another solution is to segment compostable materials, including food, paper, and green waste, thereby efficiently dealing with a massive amount of landfill deposits.

The best thing of course that we can do is to recycle and compost as many biodegradable items as we can and only send non-recyclable material to the landfill.