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Wading Through The Waste: A Look Into The Failure Of American Landfills And How Plasma Gasification Can Fix It

1995 words - 8 pages


Wading Through the Waste:
A look into the failure of American landfills and how plasma gasification can fix it

Joshua A. Valdez
ITT-Tech Jacksonville, Fl

America, a “throw away” society, is facing a tragic consequence of its lifestyle. Even with increased recycling efforts Americans are running out of space to put their trash. With stricter regulations and public policies, the number of landfills has significantly dropped; replaced by what are called “megafills.” Although safer, since the EPA’s introduction of strict regulations in 1988, environmental dangers still exist. That danger, amplified with ...view middle of the document...

During World War II, the United States government massively promoted recycling to help the war effort. When the war ended in 1945 recycling tapered off until the 1970’s when an energy crisis called for energy savings through recycling, since recycling metals is much less energy intensive than creating virgin material. In the early 1980’s, the clean air act closed many waste incinerators increasing the need for better waste management. During that same time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was formed whom highly promoted recycling and coined the term “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” In 1985 only 10.1% of municipal solid waste (MSW) – which does not include hazardous, medical or construction waste – was recycled. [ (EPA, 2012) ] In 2010, the amount of MSW recycled grew to 34.1%, a steep increase when compared to the numbers from 1960 thru 1985, a 3.7% increase. [ (EPA, 2012) ] The increase in recycling efforts has helped to reduce the amount of MSW placed in landfills [ (EPA, 2012) ]. However, 164.8 million tons of MSW was still produced in 2010 and ended up in landfills. [ (EPA, 2012) ] In 1988 the EPA created the first regulations for landfills – subtitle D under the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act – creating building codes for landfills to promote protection of ground water and air quality. [ (Taylor, 1999) ] These regulations, and the increase amount of MSW, lead a movement from 10,000 smaller local landfills to 3,500 newer megafill sites; some of the larger sites take in waste that is beyond the local and state boundaries. [ (Taylor, 1999) ]
The operation logistics and associated costs of subtitle D landfills, is not within the budget for most municipalities leading to privatization of waste management. [ (Taylor, 1999) ]
As a result of these new costs of running a landfill – installing and maintaining pit liners and monitoring wells, and providing additional training for landfill operators – have risen dramatically. In order to be economical, landfill operators must distribute these costs over a larger client base by taking in a larger volume of solid waste. [ (Taylor, 1999) ]
There are benefits for communities allowing fill sites to be located within their municipalities. In Queens County, Virginia county executives decided that the additional money they would receive from allowing operation of a fill site in their county would offset the potential environmental impacts and the increase of commercial transportation. In the Environmental Health Perspective journal Taylor, in the article Talking Trash: the economic and environmental issues of landfills, quoted Robert Rodgers a Queen County board chairman, “We built the new courthouse, a new administration building, and have been able to increase the budget for our schools. It’s been a big, big blessing.” Similarly in Charles City County, Virginia their tipping fees equaled nearly a third of the county’s total operating budget. [ (Taylor,...

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