Tagged: Landfills

What product takes up the most space in US landfills?

According to the US EPA, the material most frequently encountered in MSW landfills is plain old paper-it accounts for more than 40 percent of a landfill’s contents. Newspapers alone can take up as much as 13 percent of the space in US landfills.

Biodegradable materials, including paper, do not easily decompose once they are disposed of in a landfill. Paper is many times more resistant to deterioration when compacted in a landfill than when it is in open contact with the atmosphere. A study by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.

Why is it important to sort my recyclables according to guidelines?

The processing facility is a combination of mechanical and manual sorting operations designed to produce the highest quality material streams at a manageable cost. Contaminants in the recyclables increase the costs of separating them at the processing facility, manual sorting and clogged machinery slows the processing of recyclables. Too many contaminants can render the end product unusable thus wasting resources. If the processor deems our collected materials as excessively contaminated they can reject the load and it will end up in a landfill. Better quality recyclables yield better prices and lowers the cost of the recycling to the County.

It is important to remember that your recycled materials will be used to make new products. Quality matters and the better you follow the guidelines, the less sorting and contamination we will face at the drop-off center and the more money that can go back into the community to improve recycling.

What happens to the materials that aren’t recyclable? Don’t they just get recycled anyway?

As much as we would like to recycle everything we receive, it’s a matter of market demand. We cannot collect and process materials if there is no one to buy them. Similarly, if we include too much “junk” with our materials (such as plastic kiddy pools or laundry baskets mixed in with milk jugs), we risk losing buyers or getting a lower price for our materials. Undesirable materials and contaminants are landfilled.

Use One Less Paper Napkin

During an average year, an American uses approximately 2,200 napkins – around six each day.  If everyone in the US used one less napkin a day, more than a billion pounds of napkins could be saved from landfills each year.