Landfill is the end of a one-way road for our habit of buying, using, and discarding.
The by-product of consumption, it is our dirty secret! Massive lost opportunities and wasted resources lay in the heart of a landfill.
Landfill, as the name suggests, is direct burial of waste. It is a gigantic symbol of the human race’s wasteful approach to using the earth’s precious resources.
Not only should it be viewed as a last resort, it should be avoided at all costs.
One of the biggest environmental impacts of landfill is the leaching toxic substances. Greenhouse Gas Emissions is now widely understood in countries around the world, but what is not discussed as often as is needed is the run-off of toxins from landfills into neighbouring ecosystems.
Many local governments have legislated laws against the disposal of waste that is considered toxic, such as cooking grease and other non-soluble oils. If these by-products find their way into landfill they leach into the sub-soil systems and during rain events run into storm-water overflows which ultimately run into local streams, rivers and oceans.
Biodegradable waste should never be put in landfill as this will rot down and create landfill gas (methane and CO2) which is the potent contributor emission related climate change.
Today, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste… If food is sent to landfill it will rot, producing methane. About 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system. We can prevent further growth of greenhouse effect if we stop wasting food.
In some areas we are simply running out of landfill space.
What a horrific problem to have!
Some event destinations may have a landfill site that has purpose-built landfill gas extraction. This means (in theory) that any biodegradable waste sent to it will decompose and turn into gas (methane and CO2), which will then be used to produce ‘green’ electricity.
Landfill owners, waste treatment companies and the like are rolling out investment–heavy technology and infrastructure to capture the energy potential of methane generation from landfill – Energy from Waste (EfW).
In the United States there are EfW landfill gas harvesting landfill sites in every state. But, and this is a BUT-with-a-capital B, having these EfW sites can also encourage guilt free trashing and destruction of resources.
What’s methane’s problem?
Buried organic waste ‘rots’ and then creates methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Between 25 and 75% more powerful than CO2!
Tonnes of biodegradable waste lays rotting, releasing methane into the atmosphere, when it could have become fertiliser if processed through a composting facility.
We’re dealing with a very strong greenhouse gas here, and every time we throw something compostable into the bin to make its way to landfill, we’re contributing to the problem in a significant way.
What does this mean for events?
Simply, to avoid creating GHG emissions from waste and to avoid consumption of more (and more) virgin materials being produced, don’t send compostable or recyclable waste to landfill.
- Collect paper, timber, green waste from grounds maintenance, food scraps or anything else that can ‘rot’ and Compost it, Mulch it, or Recycle it.
- Do what you can to manage recyclable materials at your event to maximise the effectiveness of recycling and processing offsite.
- Don’t send waste to incineration if it can be recycled or composted.
Imagine the impact, if all the events in the world were to start separating food and other compostable waste.
What if every event worldwide got their recycling sorted, to such a degree, that everything that can be recycled, is.