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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trash Talk

By Sherri Collins

Editor, Pet Product News International

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Have you ever wondered where your garbage ends up? I hadn’t really thought about the final resting place of my trashcan’s contents until I came across an article on ScientificAmerican.com, which asked the question “Where, Exactly, Does Your Garbage Go After You Toss It out?” When I lived in Eureka, Calif., during the ‘70s, I knew exactly where our garbage went, as did the entire town--you could smell the landfill near Loleta when a strong southerly wind blew.

According to the Scientific American article, most people think their garbage ends up in a landfill or at a recycling center, but that isn’t always the case. And, even when it is, there is a growing concern over just how much waste U.S. denizens are producing (and where to put it all) and what, exactly, is being tossed out. Of particular concern is electronic waste (cellphones, iPods, computers, etc., which contain harmful metals and radioactive bits), as well as items that never decompose, such as tires and Styrofoam.

To help answer this consuming question, researchers at M.I.T. are gathering volunteers in New York City and Seattle to tag certain trash items with electronic tags. Researchers will monitor the tags via cell towers to determine not only the garbage’s final resting place, but also to analyze volume, patterns and cost of urban disposal. The project’s goal is to improve sanitation systems overall.

This brings me back to where my garbage ends up and what I, and everyone else (individuals and businesses alike) can do to help improve their sanitation systems by cutting down on what is thrown away. The expected “lifecycle” of the landfill where my trash ends up is another 16 to 18 years before it’s filled to capacity. There’s no mention on the waste management company’s website of where garbage will go after that. The landfills we have are reaching capacity and we’re running out of acceptable places to put more (even with new gas-management technology, no one wants to live downwind of a landfill).

Even before I found out where my garbage goes, I recycled it. If a disposable item is made of paper, plastic, glass or aluminum, it ends up in the large blue recycling bin in the alleyway. If I’m tossing out compostable items (veggies, eggshells, fruit rinds, etc.) they go into the countertop stainless-steel compost bucket, which in turn, feeds my vegetable garden. If it’s something I no longer need (or want), but is still useable, it is stored in a bag (biodegradable, of course) that is destined for the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I reuse, repair and repurpose things endlessly; sometimes to the point of absurdity—I had a pair of boots that I had repaired so many times they actually shrunk a size due to abundance of the leather patching inside.

We live in a consumption-driven world, which from a business standpoint (yours and mine) isn’t a bad thing. However, we also live in a world that is in need of some environmental TLC. As such, the least we can do is recycle, reuse and repurpose as much as possible and encourage our friends, clients and customers to do the same.

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