In most communities, reducing, reusing, and recycling waste has become a standard practice to minimize the amount of garbage going into landfills. Sorting your waste will often depend on the recycling program in your community. Most have guidelines published for residents. There are general guidelines, though.
Sorting garbage can reduce the impact on landfill by about 75%. The first step is to separate the organic/food waste from all the other garbage. That means anything that has grown; vegetable matter, meat, yard waste, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells and table scraps. These materials are all compostable, and many communities use the compost for plants and trees by roadsides and in town gardens, and sometimes sell the compost to home gardeners. It is also possible to compost in your own backyard. Compost bins are easy to construct, and once you have good compost up and running, it practically takes care of itself.
The next category of garbage is the bottles, tin foil and cans. This might include juice and milk cartons, plastic bags, bubble wrap, rigid plastic packaging. These items should be rinsed before sorting. They can all be diverted from landfill and sent for recycling. Old tires and building materials can also be diverted from landfill for recycling. Recycling equipment is used to help process these materials. Some of the products being made from these recyclables are floor tiles, road surfaces, sandals, swings, carpeting, plastic furniture and many other imaginative and creative products.
Paper and cardboard is the other broad category. This would include cardboard boxes that food such as cereal comes in. It would also include newspapers, letters and envelopes, toilet paper rolls, and any other dry clean paper product. Boxes should be flattened to minimize the bulk and making the pick-up more efficient. Paper and paper products are recycled into paper and paper products. There is an increasing demand for recycled paper from consumers and companies. The process is kinder to the environment, and calls for fewer trees to be felled for paper.
Landfills are filling up across the continent. By removing those items that can be recycled – paper, cardboard, glass, wood, organic matter – we reduce the impact on landfill sites. We also minimize the impact of landfill seepage into the water table. Making our garbage as small as possible reduces our imprint on the planet, and extends the life and health of our landfills.
When organic matter ends up in a landfill, the normal breakdown into nutrients does not occur, because the fill is packed so tightly that air does not circulate around the decaying matter. Rather than return nutrients to the earth, organic matter under those conditions produces methane, which contributes to global warming. Landfills become clogged with items that will never degrade, such as plastics. In the manufacturing process, petroleum, the primary element of plastics, is altered so that it is not recognized by the bacteria and enzymes that break down matter to its reusable form. Removing these products from landfill and sending them off to be reused is a more efficient way of handling the resources that are in limited supply. There are other products that may degrade naturally if exposed to sunlight, but that also is unlikely in a heavily packed landfill. Again, removing those items from that stream, and sending them to new uses through recycling saves energy, resources and the health of the planet.