Mountains of trash

Trash Talk

Susie TomlinsonFebruary 21, 2013 

It's no secret that while our population continues to grow, so do the mountains of trash that we produce. The average American generates 4.6 pounds of garbage a day (EPA: Municipal Solid Waste). Americans collaboratively generate 250 million tons per year. Part of this waste is food (about 34 million tons in the U.S.) according to the EPA. In some countries, children and adults rummage through enormous trash piles in pursuit of anything edible or recyclable.

We have made some progress in reducing, recycling and composting of our solid waste in the last ten years, but we can and must do more. We cannot sustain our current habits of producing waste as the number of landfills continues to decrease due to stringent federal environmental mandates. Currently there are several states that have to transport their waste to other states because of these federal mandates and no storage for their own solid waste. "Fresh Kills" on Staten Island is one of the largest landfills in the world processing some 13,000 tons of New Yorkers' trash every day. It is a mountain of trash that towers nearly 450 feet high. It is possible to return a landfill back to other public use but it is extremely difficult and costly.

Keep America Beautiful states that "What products we choose to buy or use and how we dispose of the them are things we should consider at the time of purchase." There are many ways to reduce, re-use and recycle our waste.

Food: Buy less, use leftovers, compost, donate fresh food to a food bank or people in need, use fresh food scraps for animal feed, oils/fats/grease can be donated for biodiesel fuel in some localities.

Packaging: Consider them when purchasing anything. Is there a lot of packaging and can I recycle it? Bring your own container (think grocery bags) re-use containers for home projects, avoid buying items containing Styrofoam ®, it is not recycled by waste management services currently and ask local businesses to use alternatives.

Yard Trimmings: We live in the mountains where yard trimmings can be burned but we should be mindful of the effect on air quality by using EPA rated stoves and following burn day rules. Leaves, grass clippings and other small yard trimmings make great compost for gardening.

Construction/Remodeling materials: Donate unwanted and recoverable building material to thrift shops that are specifically designed for home improvements, check out www.habitat,org/restores/directory. Older appliances and furniture can be recycled. Check with your local waste management company to see how to dispose of an item if you are unsure. We have metal recyclers in our area, for unwanted metal.

Electronics: Do we really need the newest or fastest model? There are many locations to recycle electronics. Some can be taken to the transfer station in North Fork or the Fairmead landfill (call first to verify), or dropped off at a hazardous materials collection day.

Household items: Most can be re-used, donated.

Medical Equipment: Walkers, canes, commodes and the like in working condition can be donated to a thrift store, missions going to foreign countries or passed on to family and friends.

Plastics/Paper: These are consumed in massive quantities daily and are recyclable. Consider reading e-books, re-using paper for building a fire, bedding for animals. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop; use a drinking water container that is re-usable.

Hazardous Materials: In general use less and try home remedies for cleaning. If you have to buy and use hazardous cleaning, gardening or auto chemicals, dispose of them at the Fairmead Landfill in Madera or attend a local hazardous material collection day usually held in the summer in Oakhurst.

Let's all put some thought into the mountain of trash that we contribute to and think of our choices and ways to reduce, re-use and re-cycle. For more information on KOMB or to join, call (559) 877-3424.

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