News Updates...ACAL News – Week of 13 July 2007
There is a long running debate regarding the handling of solid waste of which disposal method is the lesser of two evils regarding the environment. The research on this very delicate issue is as confusing and contradicting as the question itself. Which is better, burning garbage to generate electricity (WTE – waste-to-energy, or “waste to watts”) or burying garbage in the ground (landfills)?
There does not appear to be a straight answer. Environmental groups all over the country disagree. Some believe WTE’s (often called incinerators or burn plants, referring to older, more polluting technology) are the worst offenders, while other groups believe that leaching garbage is worse yet.
Adirondack Communities Advisory League (ACAL) spent over 10 years researching landfills, in attempts to stop the siting and construction of the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (OHSWA) landfill located in the Town of Ava. ACAL tends to side with the environmental groups that believe landfills are the worst of two evils. However, there is more to learn and much to consider when deciding which method, WTE or landfills, is most harmful to the environment.
Bottom line, neither WTE or landfills are the solution to our country’s enormous solid waste problem. Sadly, we live in a “throw away” society where many people don’t think twice about the products they buy and where the stuff goes when it breaks or they don’t want it anymore.
For example, how many plastic bags do you use? I asked myself this question a few months ago after reading about the plastic bag bans in California and other countries throughout the world. I cringe when I recall using tall kitchen garbage bags for non-recyclable waste, small garbage bags for non-recyclable bathroom waste, storage bags, sandwich bags, all sorts of plastic bags from retail stores, and large contractor bags for waste generated as a result of building our home. Shame on me! The good news is I no longer use that many plastic bags. All I needed was a reminder of how long it takes plastic bags to decompose in a landfill or the amounts of toxins that are released when they are burned, and how many animals eat them and die as a result.
One person can make a difference. I have purchased assorted sizes of glass pyrex containers with lids for food storage, and use plastic containers for my husband’s lunches. I no longer use garbage bags in the bathroom, ask for paper bags while shopping in stores (these are recycled in my county), and use cloth grocery bags for my weekly shopping. All non-recyclable construction debris is collected in trash cans, without bags, and taken to the local transfer site.
WTE vs. landfills? There is no simple answer. But there is a better solution. The 3 R’s:
REDUCE the amount of waste you personally generate.
REUSE products and sell, trade or give away items you no longer want or need.
RECYCLE everything you can and cut down on plastic bag usage.
Perhaps one day, through recycling efforts and composting, there will be less need for massive amounts of solid waste disposal. Until then, please do what you can to reduce the amount of household solid waste you produce.
Director of Communications
Adirondack Communities Advisory League (ACAL)
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