“Look at you. You’re young. And you’re scared. Why are you so scared? Stop being paralyzed. Stop swallowing your words. Stop caring what other people think. Wear what you want. Say what you want. Listen to the music you want to listen to. Play it loud as fuck and dance to it. Go out for a drive at midnight and forget that you have school the next day. Stop waiting for Friday. Live now. Do it now. Take risks. Tell secrets. This life is yours. When are you going to realize that you can do whatever you want?”—
1 18.25 ounce package chocolate cake mix. 1 can prepared coconut pecan frosting. 3/4 cup vegetable oil. 4 large eggs. 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. 3/4 cups butter or margarine. 1&2/3 cups granulated sugar. 2 cups all purpose flour. Don't forget garnishes such as: Fish shaped crackers. Fish shaped candies. Fish shaped solid waste, Fish shaped dirt. Fish shaped ethyl benzene. Pull and peel licorice.. Fish shaped volatile organic compounds and sediment shaped sediment. Candy coated peanut butter pieces, Shaped like fish. 1 cup lemon juice. Alpha resins. Unsaturated polyester resin. Fiberglass surface resins. And volatile malted milk impoundments. 9 large egg yolks. 12 medium geosynthetic membranes. 1 cup granulated sugar. An entry called 'how to kill someone with your bare hands'. 2 cups rhubarb, sliced. 2/3 cups granulated rhubarb. 1 tablespoon all-purpose rhubarb. 1 teaspoon grated orange rhubarb. 3 tablespoons rhubarb, on fire. 1 large rhubarb. 1 cross borehole electro-magnetic imaging rhubarb. 2 tablespoons rhubarb juice. Adjustable aluminum head positioner. Slaughter electric needle injector. Cordless electric needle injector. Injector needle driver. Injector needle gun. Cranial caps. And it contains proven preservatives, deep penetration agents, and gas and odor control chemicals. That will deodorize and preserve putrid tissue.
We live in a disposable society. We shrinkwrap coconuts, box tomatoes, and wrap everything in three layers of packaging because we’re so paranoid about germs. Having taken a class called “Environmental Engineering” this quarter, I’d like to think I’ve become slightly less ignorant of excessive use of materials. While most of the class did focus on water treatment (which is a whole other topic), we’ve recently touched on what goes into the wastestream from our own households.
The picture above is a nice graphical representation of how much of our waste is simply packaging (and if you want more, particularly on Europe, check this out). In a more recent EPA report on municipal solid waste from 2009, approximately 29.5% of our MSW generated was packaging. If you need numbers, that translates to ~72 million tons.
Although it is a little dated, I can assure you that the U.S. is still ahead in terms of generating waste. Not limited to packaging, the per capita annual municipal solid waste generated by the U.S. and Canada (because Canada & the U.S. share a significant amount of the economy and Canadian society is similar to American society) is 1600 lb/person/yr. In case you were wondering, we’re number one in waste generation. Second in the MSW generation olympics is Japan at 900 lb/person/yr. Europe (let’s define this as the EU) ranks third with 750 lb/person/yr.
So now that I’ve thrown all these numbers at you, go ahead and do the math. I don’t care whether or not you believe in global warming, being “sustainable” is more than just trying to cut down on greenhouse gases/emissions (although I do believe that’s important too). Where do you think all this waste goes? Although we’ve gotten better at recycling, we still generate more waste than we did before and that waste has to go somewhere.
Sanitary landfills are not the same as open dumps. Yes, they are where we bury our garbage and they take up a LOT of space. However, more precautions are taken when designing these landfills than there were with open dumps from a previous era. Impervious liners are used to prevent leakage, and each day’s collected waste is covered with soil to create a series of cells until the site is full. It is then capped off with another liner/layer.
However, because it is waste and some waste is organic, settling occurs, making the site somewhat unstable and not suitable for building on. Facilities such as golf courses and amphitheaters can use the decommissioned landfill because the uses are not dependent on the stability of the site. But with such a limited scope of land use for decommissioned landfills, space becomes an issue rather quickly. Due to the misconception that sanitary landfills are like open dumps, nobody wants to have one near their home. And just to add to that problem, let’s throw in population growth.
I can’t change the world in a single blog post and I certainly can’t explain everything. My only hope is that someone will read this and learn something new. Sustainability isn’t just about carbon emissions and trendy reusable shopping bags, it’s about sustaining life on this planet to ensure that future generations will have someplace to live.