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Landfill

Landfill, the last resort for waste. Unspeakable things happen in landfill, carrots in plastic bags are preserved in such a state that despite being a little brown on the outside, they remain orange on the inside. Why? Well basically there are two ways for things to break down in landfill: aerobic (with air) and anaerobic (without air). Aerobic processes are faster because the oxygen helps to break down organic matter, but unfortunately landfill is predominantly an anaerobic environment. Landfill is crammed so tight with our rubbish that instead of biodegrading it is mummifying, preserving our waste for years to come.

The biggest myth is that things will break down in landfill because they're biodegradable. Biodegradability is reliant on aeration - it's the reason why we stir our compost - the air helps things to break down. Unfortunately there aren't any magical landfill wizards with massive spoons stirring our landfill. It sits, it compacts, and it goes nowhere. Don't even get me started about plastics, even the 'good' ones that are made from corn starch are stable in landfill, that basically means that every piece of plastic ever tossed into landfill is still there! 

As we get better at waste management, the methane production from landfill is reducing, but it is still significant! One of the most important things we can do as citizens is to better manage our own waste so that we can continue to reduce our contribution to waste-related emissions.

Signs you're on track to going almost zero

  • your household bin has less rubbish in it week after week
  • you can skip a council waste collection or two each month
  • you don't remember the last time you put the bin out

What about hard rubbish?

Before you send something out for a hard rubbish collection, make sure it really is rubbish. You know the old saying, one person's trash is another's treasure, well it's a cliche for a reason! Next time you have something you think is destined for landfill, try posting it on gumtree as a giveaway item first. You'll be surprised how much use other people can find in your unwanted goodies!

 

Resources:
http://theconversation.com/explainer-how-much-landfill-does-australia-have-78404
http://www.ecoproducts.com/images/pdfs/talking_points/Biodegradation.pdf
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/83091/AMERICAS-LANDFILLS--MUMMIFIED-TOMBS-OF-TRASH.html
http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/national-waste-reports/national-waste-report-2013
https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas