It is seven of the clock. Do I hear a truck? I need to get the garbage outside! A weekly regimen for all but no one usually thinks about what happens to our trash. Once it is in a plastic bag most people pretend that it does not exist. They tend to believe that waste disposal is an issue for the government and private contractors. While this is true, these people have to decide how to dispose of everyone’s’ garbage. And they have to ask, what impact will this refuse have on the environment and community after it is out of sight and mind?
There are three basic ways that trash is disposed of recycling, landfills and incineration. Each with their own perks and flaws. Recycling has been and will continue to be the worldwide favorite however this method cannot process all waste. The leftover refuse winds up in landfills and incinerators. Which of these two methods of disposal is the lesser evil?
Landfills seem pretty self-explanatory, a hole full of garbage. However it goes much deeper than that, no pun intended. Current landfills do begin with a hole in ground but that hole is lined with layers of dense plastic this process makes sure that no contaminants escape into the soil. These contaminants are called leachates and are caused by water seeping through the landfill. The leachates must be removed every so often, processed and disposed of. Landfills also produce an extraordinary amount of methane. Some, not all landfills collect this methane and either burn it or process it in order to sell the methane as fuel. (Mckinney and Michael 536-37)
Contrary to popular belief, incinerators are not the pollution powerhouses previously thought. There are essentially two types of waste to energy facilities: refuse-derived fuel facilities (RDF) and mass burn incinerators. RDFs are able sort the waste, into recyclable materials and non-recyclable materials, using a variety of methods including but not limited to magnetic separation and density separation. The resource recovery facility then burns the recyclable material. However, RDF plants are very expensive to operate and construct making the best option for waste to energy technology be mass burn incinerators. A mass burn incinerator is much closer related to the high polluting incinerators of the 1950s. This type of incinerator simply burns the garbage at high temperatures and uses the heat to drive a turbine that produces electricity. These modern incinerators must adhere to guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency therefore they have measures to limit their pollutant output. These include filters to catch ash and the toxic parts of the released gases. (Mckinney and Michael 531-32)
The issue on most peoples’ minds today is: How will this affect me? In this case, will whatever method my government picks be detrimental to my health? There have been several studies regarding this topic for instance one study published in the Journal of Environmental Management says...