Let’s Talk “Trash” …

What is the importance of reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): LCA is a process used to determine the entire life of a product from the raw materials used to make the product to where it ends up when consumers are done using the product. Depending on how consumers dispose of products changes the end of life cycle of the materials used to make the product. It is important to think about the end life of every product we buy and to make the best decision on how to dispose of the product when it is no longer useful to us, the consumer or business owner.

Some useful things to ask yourself when purchasing consumer products: 
  • How long do you plan to use the item?
  • How useful is the item?
  • How sustainable were the materials used to make the item?
  • How difficult will it be to dispose of, reuse, repurpose, and/or recycle the item?

Resource Depletion:

When products are not recycled or reused, they end up in landfills. When these products are disposed of in landfills, the raw materials used to make those products end up in the landfill too. This means that the raw materials are removed from the resource supply chain and manufactures must extract the raw materials to make more consumer products (i.e. cut down more trees), an endless cycle. However, if consumers are more conscience of product recycling and repurposing, then these raw materials could be added back into the resource stream rather than left to degrade in landfills with no new purpose.

Pollution and Leachate:

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), that is the term used to describe the waste from consumer households that is disposed of primarily in landfills. When trash is dumped into landfills and left to decompose, materials breakdown and gasses and liquids are formed and/or released. These gasses and liquids are referred to as “leachate” and this can be extremely harmful to the nearby water sources, air, and local ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regulates the construction of landfills to minimize the amount of pollution run-off and leachate; however, these contaminants may still enter the nearby ecosystems and be hazardous for local waterways and wildlife. To minimize the amount and type of leachate, consumers can decrease the amount of MSW by properly reusing items and/or recycling items properly. Below is an image from the EPA website MSW Landfill for more information on Landfill construction.

Ways to reduces your landfill contribution:
  • Use reusable grocery bags and food containers
  • Donate gently used items
  • Repurpose items for alternative uses
  • Buy products that are sustainably made and biodegradable
  • Recycle items when necessary
  • Call JUNK AID when you do need to remove household items and remember “Your Junk –> Someone’s Treasure”

Sources:

  1. LCA – https://www.re-sources.org/2020/05/diy-project-life-cycle-assessment/
  2. Ted Talk “Life Cycle of a Plastic Spoon” – https://youtu.be/_6xlNyWPpB8
  3. EPA “MSW Landfill” – https://www.epa.gov/landfills/municipal-solid-waste-landfills
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