Trash. It’s tempting to not think about it, and our culture does encourage it, for the most part. We’re supposed to buy as much stuff as we possibly can, own the latest styles, remodel our kitchens, if things break we should replace, not repair them (we often don’t have a choice, and we usually don’t have the time either.) Most everything is sold with excess or unrecyclable packaging, but that’s the way it comes. Packaging is about a third of our trash. Trash is, after all, an “afterwards ” thing, after the pleasures of buying, having, using, eating, drinking. And landfills, who wants to dwell on them? Wall-E.
Well, we must pay the costs, both the bucks and externalized environmental costs. Puente Hills is the country’s largest landfill. Once a valley, it is now a mountain of trash. It accepts up to 12,000 tons per day, 6 days a week of trash from L.A. County, and it will be closing next year. After that, those tons per day will most likely be hauled to a place in the desert. And Santa Barbara is currently trying to figure out how best to extend the operating life of their landfill, whether it is with expensive new anerobic digestion technology, or much lower tech methods of collecting and composting more. Good news: at under 4 1/2 pounds per day, Americans are throwing out a bit less than 10 years ago and recycling and composting rates continue to rise, currently at 34%. Californians divert more than 50%, San Franciscans closer to 75%!
At least Puente Hills is able to generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small city, with methane from the landfill. Electricity is so much better a use for it than warming the planet.
One advantage of a down economy is people buying less (and yes, keeping it down…)