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The landfill problem

Vocabulary

Greenhouse gases are gases that while being in our atmosphere are heating the climate and increasing the climate change by trapping the heat. While the sunlight is hitting the Earth’s surface, some of the energy is let into the surface and some is reflected back to space. However, gasses in our atmosphere, like carbon dioxide (CO2), trap the energy, which will heat the Earth even more. This is called the greenhouse effect. The name comes from the nature of the gases, because they allow the light to go through, but trap the heat – like greenhouses made from glass.

Watch the video and answer the questions:

  1. Do you ever think where does your waste end up? 
  2. Why landfills are bad for environment? Please, give at least two examples.
  3. Give at least three examples how you can help to reduce the amount of landfills and solve the issue related to them?

Transcript

Hello, I’m Romualdo, I’m from the United States and an intern at Bellona Foundation. Today I’m going to talk to you about the environment and the problems associated with it, because it concerns everyone just like me, you and everyone around us. Waste is a significant global issue. Increasing volumes of waste are being generated as the living standards and global population rise. There are some really important questions I have for you about the environment.

The first one. Do you know how much waste a person produces according to statistics?

It is about 500 kg of waste per person in a year!

It’s why I would like to talk to you about an issue that is important to everyone which is reducing your landfill waste.

Unfortunately, most often people don’t think about where all the garbage ends up. Any waste that is not recycled or reused has to go somewhere, and it usually ends up at a landfill site.

From this follows my second question and it is how far are landfills from your cities? What do you think about it? Are they far away, or are they close? People usually think landfills are far away but that is not true. If you are interested, check official sites on the internet how far away the landfills are.

Finally, my last question is do you think this type of landfill is good for the environment? 

Of course not, and I’m going to tell you why:

  • Toxins

Do you know that many of the waste you get rid off contain toxic substances? Over time, toxins get into the soil, into the groundwater and poison our environment for many years. In the end toxins are destroying everything: nature, the oceans, the animal world and humanity.

  • Leachate

Landfill leachate is the liquid that exists as part of waste in a landfill. This liquid is highly toxic and can cause great harm to the environment. For example: the color, smell and taste of the water may change.

  • Greenhouse gas

This one is probably the most serious environmental threat by landfills. Why? This is because  rubbish in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas which is 25 times stronger than CO2. Because of the increase in methane in the environment, there has been global warming, which has caused climate change, which in some areas is already irreversible.

In addition to that, garbage in landfills decomposes slowly and is a problem for future generations.

  • Landfill fires

The causes of landfill fires can become spontaneous combustion because of high temperatures under dense layers of waste and external factors such as improper disposal of certain types of waste and arson, which is when people purposely burn an area. Importantly, after the open fire clears, the landfill does not go out completely. The deeper layers of waste continue to smolder which continues to poison the environment.

What solves landfills?

There are many ways on how you can reduce landfill waste.

1. To produce less garbage, you should not buy things you don’t need. It is better to choose things with less packaging. For example, you can buy coffee with your own cup and in some places (especially in big cities where you can even get a discount.)

2. Do not use a onetime product. You could always find reusable water bottles, shoe covers, and straw for drinks. Almost every time items have reusable counterparts! For example, Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit recycling center in Colorado, USA, has organized Boulder County to have zero waste. Finally, there is GrassRoots Recycling Network. It is an organization in the U.S. that organizes workshops and conferences on zero-waste activities. What do you think about the situation in Russia with reusable things? Are zero-waste organizations popular?

3. Sort garbage so that the garbage becomes recycled, rather than garbage remaining in landfills for years. There is a website called recyclemap.ru which can help you find different places in Russia for trash removal. The best place to make a difference is right in your own home. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste.

4. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials and household waste. And lastly be sure to separate batteries and other hazardous waste. It is known that one battery that people usually throw away in the trash instead of the recycling center can contaminate 10-15 square meters of soil. But that area could be home to trees and animals. Now calculate how many batteries you throw away per year and imagine the amount of contaminated soil.

To solve the problem of waste management, we need to start with ourselves, because until we stop throwing construction and household waste, batteries, and various gadgets together, until we collect plastic and paper separately, landfills will proliferate and the inefficiency of public policy in this area will continue.