Living in a Disposable Society, Let’s Talk Trash

By Danielle Baker, The traveling worm woman

The garbage we throw away does not just go away.  When our trash goes to the landfill there is a lot of energy used in that process.   I heard we are now generating methane gas from our local landfill, “but it is expensive because of the pollution controls needed for handling fumes and ash (1).”

If you litter it also doesn’t go away.  It can get in the storm drain and eventually find its way to the river into our oceans that are filled with plastics and trash.  With the environment as it is now, “Recycling is more important today than it has ever been before. In order to keep our communities safe and clean, we all must pitch in to help recycle and reuse as much as possible, and understand why (7).”  With limited resources and growing population people are realizing how important it is to use resources wisely.   “As Americans we represent 5% of the world’s population and produce 50% of the world’s trash (11).

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California has always led the way in waste reduction.   In 2002, I was an undergraduate at CSU Chico. Hired as Compost Education Coordinator for AS (Associated Students) Recycling we did workshops teaching composting as a way to reduce waste.  “Law AB 75 required each State agency to divert at least 25% of its solid waste from landfills by January, 2002; 50 percent by January, 2004 (10).”

The  Department of Resources and Recovery states “The Legislature and Governor Brown set an ambitious goal of 75% recycling, composting or source reduction of solid waste by 2020 (10).”  Waste prevention resources and programs are stepping up for businesses, schools and public, but the real question is if we care?  “Law AB 341, starting July, 2012 required businesses, public entities, including schools and multifamily units of five or more to recycle (10).” 

“Packaging alone accounts for 10-15% (sometimes more than 50%) of the cost of a product and 50% of all consumer waste (11).” A program is now in place “Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):  a strategy to place shared responsibility for end-of-life product management on the producers,  all entities involved in the product chain, instead of the general public; encouraging product design changes that minimize a negative impact on human health and the environment at every stage of the product’s lifecycle (10).” There is another proposal on the table for Rigid Plastic Packaging Containers (RPPC).  It will require that plastic shopping bags remain rigid so they are reusable and being made from recyclable material. is ahead of the trend by making new re-usable bags at Chico Natural Food Co-op that are up to date on this regulation.

 “In 1994 US generated 209.1 million tons of MSW (Municipal Solid Waste), Paper being the largest component 38.9%, Yard Trimmings 14.6% (1).”   “2007 EPA data states US had 254 Million tons of MSW before recycling (2).”  There are substantially fewer landfills due to stricter EPA laws.  “In 1988, 8,000 US Landfills were in operation.   In 1993, there are only allowed 3,555 (1).”  Fewer landfills make them harder to manage.  We are required by law to recycle more so our limited landfills don’t fill up.  Individual recycling efforts do make a difference for landfills and future generations.

Do you recycle Paper, Plastic, Glass, and Aluminum at a Recycling Center?  ”Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for two hours – or a computer for three(3).”  Do you re-use your fabric by donating it to charity? How much Electronic Waste do you have at your house?  “By 2020, worldwide electronic waste could grow as much as 500% (3)?”

What do you do with your household yard and food waste?  By now you have probably heard of Vermicomposting where worms feed on your waste, decomposing it for you.  Do not feed them meat or dairy products, bury the food in different spot each time, best temperature for Red Wiggler Worms is 55-77F.  Ideally, if you follow the Compost Equation you will be able to harvest worm castings in one to two months.  Legislature has put new laws into effect.  It will ultimately depend on the decisions we make today.

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