Why End Landfilling?
Landfills are a flawed technology and a cancer on the land. Landfills waste resources and compete directly with beneficial resource conserving enterprises such as reuse, recycling, composting. Even so-called ‘state-of-the-art’ landfills merely delay, rather than eliminate, massive pollution to groundwater and are a leading contributor to global warming. Waste can and should be designed out of our industrial system. Waste is not inevitable. Nor are landfills.
What About Incineration?
Burning garbage is a costly and doubly flawed technology. Incineration captures far less energy than recycling saves, releases toxics into the air, and still requires landfills for toxic ash. GRRN focuses on landfilling because
- (1) other organizations do an excellent job of exposing the shortcomings of incineration
(see especially GAIA and
- (2) landfilling is the primary economic competition with recycling in the USA at the present time (53% of U.S. discards are landfilled compared with 16% incinerated, according to U.S. EPA, in large part because 'tipping fees' for incinerators average more than twice those for landfills).
So What's the Alternative?
Zero Waste ... or darn close! In other words, design toxics and waste out of the system at the design stage; end subsidies for resource extraction and wasting; hold producers responsible for product and packaging waste; and build self-reliant communities that treat discards as job-producing assets push waste back up the pipe. Let's not get hung up on the Zero -- the point is to aim for zero and put the resources currently being spent managing waste towards eliminating waste and managing resources. Read lots more on GRRN's Zero Waste subsite.
You, the well-meaning public and business leaders working to offset your carbon emissions, may be inadvertently spending money on renewable energy credits (RECs) that support the destruction of natural resources and the polluting practices of burning and burying garbage.
The waste industry is working to declare garbage a ‘renewable resource’ and secure federal tax credits for making energy from collecting landfill methane gas. GRRN believes such measures should be required, not subsidized, for such an antiquated technology.
Landfilling food and paper is heating up the planet. Composting is the quickest and cheapest way to immediately reduce a community's greenhouse gas emissions and restore our soils.
A list of publications, and articles about ending landfilling.