Sydney Souviron PKGSC 368 24 May 2011 Sustainability Assignment

1. What are the issues surrounding the idea that landfills are closing? Please discuss issues in terms of perceptions, reality, circumstances, and functionality. (5 pts) Every year billions of tons of packaging waste goes into our landfills. In 1987 it was estimated that one forth of major US cities would be out of landfill space. Although this estimation was not true, the rise in fees to dump waste in a landfill made it difficult for people and corporations to dump their trash. This also contributed to the idea that landfill space was diminishing. The false perception also raised concerns about the environment and the need to protect it, so regulations were established to make the construction of landfills more secure. Many of the landfills previously used were closed because they did not meet the new regulations. The construction of these landfills caused landfill “juice” to leak out from the bottom of the landfill into the ground, which could contaminate the ground water. Because of the increase in fees and the new regulations on the construction of landfills that corresponded to many landfills being closed, people responded in panic about their landfill space. The reality is that the United States is not running out of space to build new landfills, it has just become more difficult to find new sites to open landfills because people do not want them close to where they live along with other political issues. Incineration, recycling, and composting were three solutions made to reduce landfills. Incineration is more commonly used in higher populated cities. Industrial compost facilities have not been established in the U.S. yet and very few Americans actually compost their own waste. Because of this, new biodegradable packages are not able to serve their purpose and are being disposed of in landfills where they lie in their

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grave with regular packaging waste. The idea that we are running out of landfill space has caused a change in the construction of landfills. Not only are landfills constructed so that ground water cannot be contaminated, they are also constructed to minimize and reuse the final filled space. To conserve space the waste in a landfill is compacted so tightly that it does not allow in air or water, which retards the rate of degradation of even the most degradable materials. Playgrounds and fields are often constructed on top of closed landfills to reuse the space.

2. Compare and contrast landfills, open dumps, and industrial compost facilities. Landfills are the most common land disposal of solid waste. Proper sites are chosen for landfills and infrastructures have liners and leachate management. Landfills have a leachate storage tank and monitoring probe and allow the containment and treatment of leachate. A venting gravel layer manages gas. A clay cap, topsoil, and a methane monitoring probe are also present in landfills. The construction of landfills retards the rate of degradation because no air or water is allowed into the compost to break down the trash. Unlike an open dump, the operation measures of a landfill consist of registration and placement/compaction of waste, and a daily soil cover is used along with a final top cover for a filled landfill. Filled landfills can be reused as open fields or playgrounds can be built on top. For landfills, all the precautionary measures are taken to protect the environment, unlike open dumps. An open dump allows solid waste to be disposed of in a way in which no precautions are taken to protect the environment. The site is exposed to the elements, scavengers, stagnated polluted water, and susceptible to open burning. Liners are rarely used to protect groundwater pollution. Open dumping sites are often low-lying areas or swamp lands with the waste being

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used for reclamation. They commonly have a lack of leachate collection and treatment, inadequate compaction, and have a poor site design. A build up of methane gas typically occurs because of the high percentage of organics and plastic with no means of gas management. Open dumps add to air pollution because spontaneous fires are often started. Health risks for workers are often much higher in open dumps than landfills. Although open dumps fill more slowly than landfills, which fill quickly, they are an eyesore and create environmental and safety problems because they are so uncontrolled. In response to these issues, a law was passed fifty years ago, which replaced open dumps by sanitary landfills. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a compost facility processes raw manure or other raw organic by-products into biologically stable organic material. Its purpose is to reduce the pollution potential of organic agricultural wastes to surface and ground water. Unlike landfills and open dumps, compost facilities leave no solid waste behind when the compost process is finished. Because no industrial compost facilities have been established in the United States, compost facilities account for a very small percent of waste disposal. There are many different types of compost facilities for various organic materials. Like landfills, compost facilities also have safety, and environmental regulations. Runoff from the compost facility is utilized or disposed of properly which prevents the contamination of ground water, unlike an open dump. A compost mix is developed and the moisture, air, and raw material mix are regulated properly to break down complex organic compounds. Similar to an open dump, a compost facility allows air and water into the waste, however compost facilities regulate these two factors along with temperate. Composting status is monitored to achieve ideal performance and temperature measurements provide needed evaluation of compost status.

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3. Explain the statement that “a properly constructed landfill thwarts biodegradation.” (10 pts) Biodegradation is the transformation of a substance into new compounds through biochemical reactions or the actions of microorganisms. Numerous factors affect the rate of biodegradation such as: soil moisture content, porosity, soil temperature and pH, and oxygen availability. In a properly constructed landfill, refuse is compacted very tightly and air and water are completely excluded. The base of the landfill consists of clay, synthetic, and sand liners, which keep wastes from migrating into the ground and help keep ground water out. When it is full the landfill is capped with a gas venting gravel liner then covered with a final clay cap. The cover cap of a properly constructed landfill is maintained so it is always effective. The microorganisms in a landfill are anaerobic because oxygen is not available. They have a low biodegradation rate because they don’t receive the proper balance of moisture, nutrients, and temperature. Under anaerobic conditions, the rate of degradation is usually limited by the reaction rate of the active microorganisms. The adaptation of these microorganisms is very slow process and can take years. Metabolic activity results in the formation of incompletely oxidized, simple organic substances, such as organic acids, and by-products such as methane or hydrogen gas. If a landfill is not properly constructed the factors affecting the rate of biodegradation would be effected. These effects could result in the presence of aerobic, instead of anaerobic, microorganisms, which would cause higher biodegradation. Biodegradation occurs more quickly and at a higher rate with aerobic microorganisms because they adapt quickly, reach high densities, and are able to degrade a wider variety of organic materials.

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Since the factors that affect the potential for and rate of naturally occurring biodegradation, particularly oxygen availability, soil moisture, and porosity, are limited in a properly constructed landfill, which has anaerobic conditions, it is accurate to say that “a properly constructed landfill thwarts biodegradation.”

4. Compare and contrast resource use of each of the following packaging materials: Paper, plastic, glass, metal (20 pts) Paper is a renewable resource because as long as we keep replacing the trees that cut down to make the paper so new ones will grown, the earth will never run out. Many people have the false impression that by choosing paper over plastic they are helping the environment. This is not true because the production of paper uses more resources, and pollutes more than plastic. Even if recycling is taken into account, the production of paper and paperboard packages consumes more resources and produces more waste than plastic would. Not only does the production of paper packaging require high energy but also requires a lot of energy to cut down the trees and for transportation. When recycled, a 40% reduction in energy is achieved versus paper made from unrecycled pulp. However, recycling paper to make pulp actually consumes more fossil fuels than making new pulp using the kraft process, which uses less than 50% of the tree. Paper mill waste water and air pollution often affects and pollutes the surrounding ecosystems and reduces air quality. The raw materials used to make plastic are nonrenewable because the earth does not have an endless supply. Many companies try to package their product so that there is more product and have the least amount of plastic necessary. Plastics help make packaging more efficient which ultimately conserves resources. Plastics can be molded to a product or shaped and formed

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to a desired way, which is what helps reduce the required material. Doing more with less also helps conserver resources by saving energy. People usually are not considering the energy used to produce the packaging when they choose paper over plastic bags at a grocery store. When recycled plastic packaging cannot be reused to package any type of food or beverage product. Food and beverage plastic packaging must be made fresh, never from recycled materials. Recycled plastic packaging can be made into products such as clothing, carpeting, and detergent bottles. Producing this new plastic from recycled materials uses 2/3 less energy and helps to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The raw materials used to make glass renewable but that does not mean that its production is good for the environment. Glass production requires high levels of energy along with high transportation energy levels. Although high levels of energy are needed for production, glass packaging is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without a loss in purity or quality. An estimated 80% of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles, which sets it apart from plastic packaging. Recycling glass saves energy as compared to using raw ingredients to make new glass. Energy costs drop about 2-3% for every 10% of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process. Recycling glass also reduces landfill dependence, resource use, and pollution from carbon dioxide emissions. The weight of glass makes transportation energy very inefficient. The thickness of glass packaging is limited because it must maintain a certain thickness to prevent cracking and breaking. Metal is a nonrenewable resource because it takes millions of years for the earth to produce the materials and there is not an endless supply. This is why metal recycling businesses are popular around the world. Like glass, steel is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without its quality ever deteriorating. More than half of the steel around us has already been

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recycled from scrap. Because of its magnetic properties it is the most cost-efficient material to recover for recycling. Unlike glass, paper, and plastic, metal has a very high economic value so very little of it is disposed of in landfills. Today, steel producers use the most sophisticated energy and gas management systems in the production process to limit energy use. Unlike glass, new steel grades are being produced, which makes a reduction in thickness possible. Reducing the weight and thickness of steel packages will not only reduce the energy and resources such as iron and coal needed for production, but it also help lower transportation energy.

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Works Cited " B i o d e g r a d a t i o n Wo n ' t S o l v e t h e L a n d f i l l C r u n c h . " G e n p a k . E n v i r o n m e n t a n d P l a s t i c s I n d u s t r y C o u n c i l , n . d . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 11 . < h t t p : / / w w w. g e n p a k . c o m / d o w n l o a d s / L a n d f i l l . p d f > . C o m p o s t i n g F a c i l i t y . A l a b a m a : N R C S , 2 0 0 5 . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / e f o t g . s c . e g o v. u s d a . g o v / r e f e r e n c e s / p u b l i c / A L / t g 3 1 7 . p d f > . J o s e p h , K u r i a n , R . N a g e d r a n , a n d K . P l a n i v e l u . " O p e n D u m p s To S u s t a i n a b l e L a n d f i l l s . " N . p . , n . d . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / w w w. s w l f . a i t . a c . t h / U p d D a t a / N a t i o n a l / O D S L 1 . p d f > . " P l a s t i c s 1 0 1 . " P l a s t i c s R e s o u r c e . N . p . , n . d . We b . 2 3 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / d w b 4 . u n l . e d u / C h e m / C H E M 8 6 9 E / C H E M 8 6 9 E L i n k s / w w w. plasticsresource.com/plastics_101/uses/uses.html>. "Recycling & the Environment." Glass Packaging Institute . N.p., 2 0 1 0 . We b . 2 3 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / w w w . g p i . o r g / r e c y c l e glass/environment/glass -recycling-fast-facts.html>. "Steel: The Sustainable Packaging Solution." APEAL. The Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging, n.d. We b . 2 3 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / w w w. a p e a l . o r g / u p l o a d s / L i b r a r y/ E n v i r o n m e n t a l % 2 0 B r o c h ure.pdf>.

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" T h e B a s i c s o f L a n d f i l l s . " A C T I O N C e n t e r , 2 6 M a r 2 0 0 3 . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / w w w. e j n e t . o r g / l a n d f i l l s / > . U n i t e d S t a t e s . B i o d e g r a d a t i o n . , 2 0 1 0 . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 1 1 . <http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/biodegradation.html>. United States. Naturally Occurring Biodegradation as a Remedial A c t io n Op ti o n fo r S oi l C on ta m in a tio n . Wi s c on si n : Bur e a u f o r R e m e d i a t i o n a n d R e d e v e l o p m e n t , 1 9 9 4 . We b . 2 2 M a y 2 0 1 1 . < h t t p : / / d n r. w i . g o v / O r g / a w / r r / a r c h i v e s / p u b s / R R 5 1 5 . p d f > .

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