Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garbage Land

I've been reading Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte, and it's great. The book describes the process of garbage collection in NYC, how the garbage seemingly disappears by the Big Apple.

There are some really great facts and quotations in the book, and I will post some of my favorites below.

  • "Since 1960, the nation's municipal waste stream has nearly tripled, reaching a reported peak of 369 million tons in 2002. That's more stuff, per capita, than any other nation in the world…."
  • "According to Daniel C. Walsh, a professor at Columbia University's Department of Earth and Environmental engineering who examined a century's worth of city garbage records, per capita rejection in New York peaked in 1940 at 2,068 pounds a year, or 5.66 pounds per day. It dropped to a century-low 712 pounds a year in the midseventies (the economy was in poor shape) and by 1999 rose to 9.28 pounds. The rate, he reported in Environmental Science & Technology, has been fairly steady since 1980." 
  • "While the fatality rate for all occupations is 4.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, garbage collectors die at a rate of 46 per 100,000. In fact, they're approximately three times more likely to be killed on the job than police officers or firefighters." 
  • "The EPA requires landfill owners to monitor their sites for thirty years postclosure to control leachate and methane buildup, which causes fires and explosions. After this period, there is no funding to monitor water or air, to maintain landfill covers, or to remediate any eventual pollution. Over time, landfills pose more of a threat to the environment, not less." 
  • "When organic matter decomposes, it creates methane and carbon dioxide, both greenhouse gases. As it filters up through layers of buried garbage, methane can pick up carcinogens like acetone, benzene and ethyl benzene, xylenes, trichlorethylene, and vinyl chloride.  These compounds are borne on the breeze into nearby homes and offices."
  • "Before the methane collection pipes were in place, Fresh Kills emitted more than fifteen billion cubic feet of greenhouse and carcinogenic gases a year - almost 2 percent of all the world's methane, according to the EPA."
I highly recommend Garbage Land and have decided to focus this blog on WASTE.  I am going to delve into some waste issues that I find particularly interesting and hope that others take interest in them as well.

Royte also makes reference to some interesting companies, organization, and books that I look forward to investigating:

Reviews of Garbage Land
TreeHugger Review
New York Times Review
Garbage Land on Amazon

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