Pollution shouldn’t be political; it should be something we all work together to manage, no matter what side we take on issues at large. Garbage is as old as humanity, and we’ve been struggling to dispose of it since. In fact, the first recorded landfill is over 5,000 years old, discovered in the Cretan capital, Knossos where they buried their garbage in giant pits layered with soil.
In today’s world, each American produces approximately 1,600 pounds of garbage a year, a whole heck-of-a-lot more than the Cretans! Earth 911 defines a landfill’s purpose as a place to “isolate waste from its surrounding environment, and [prevent] water contamination and contact with air.” Although landfills are not built to decompose trash. Landfills were built to keep us safe from producing giant garbage monsters that attack us with our own filth, although sometimes they fall short. You can’t stop the devastating effects of pollution unless you learn how; it’s time to get to know which landfills are the most dangerous.
Giant Pacific Trash Raft
Swirling mercilessly through the Pacific like an Africa-sized vat of unforgiving soup lies the Great Pacific Trash Gyre. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s time to acquaint yourself with with this behemoth trash-raft comprised of Eastern and Western garbage patches. Four-fifths of all the garbage in it is from land, and it’s predominately plastic.
This is very bad news for reasons aside from the obvious. Plastic has the ability to break into small particles that soak up toxins like impressionable young minds soak up R rated films. This giant cesspool of eager chemicals affects humans and other animals very negatively, as said toxins are passed up the food chain via our water and food. This barrage of trash not only raises serious health concerns for you and your family, but it reaps havoc on the most beautiful places on earth. Some once-pristine beaches in places like the Hawaiian Archipelago are covered under up to five to 10 feet of plastic garbage. The UN Environment program warns that, although some clean-up efforts have been made, it is simply impossible to clean up a garbage heap the size of a continent and 100 feet deep. Humans are gross.
Puente Hills is Land-Filled
This waste-drenched empire of dirt now holds the title for the largest active dump in North America. Puente Hills receives about 13,200 tons of refuse in 1,600 trucks daily, which is the legal limit! The site is 150 meters high and stretched over 700 acres. Although the site can technically continue to accept trash loads for another 13 years, their permit expires soon and neighbors are rallying to get the trash heap out of their “backyards,” as it is located in a densely populated area.
Finding Safe Solutions
While the first step is safely containing and taking care of landfills, that simply isn’t enough. We can look to examples like Staten Island’s recently closed Fresh Kills Landfill. Although the landfill has been capped with a plastic and clay membrane, there are still concerns about the gases produced by decomposing garbage, as well as the slurry slop that comes from garbage runoff, called leachate.
Other successful landfill sites include the Cherry Island Vertical Expansion Project, made save by the environmental remediation company Sevenson Environmental. Not only did they increase the landfill foundation strength and helped move two million yards of refuse, but “[the] engineering solution saved more than $159 million based on the original design, increased landfill capacity by 20.7 million cubic yards and extended the life of the landfill by about 20 years,” said the president and CEO of Sevenson Environmental, Michael Elia.
Although proper remediation and capping can help manage the current state of landfills, they don’t attack the problem at the source. The only real way to manage the growing garbage problem is to stop making so much garbage. If everyone stopped and took a moment to think about how much nasty refuse they contribute to what’s left of our beautiful environment, then we’d have much less land to fill with trash.