Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Electricity Producing Landfills

Just like we can use garbage to produce energy efficient products, we can also use landfills to produce electricity. Microorganisms that live in organic materials like wasted food, yard clippings or paper cause this garbage to decompose. As its decomposing, it is emmitting landfill gas usually made of 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide. It is said that these emmissions can supply up to 1 percent of the nations energy demand if conserved. Therefore, emmitting these gases into the atmosphere, it is unhealthy for the environment, but if we can conserve these gases, it could be utilized for electrical uses. These gases can be collected by drilling "wells" and collecting these gases through pipes. It is then combined with natural gas to fuel conventional combustion turbines or used to fuel small combustion turbines. This changes the way landfills can be ran, because these pollutants are the major "side-effect" to having so much trash in one place such as a landfill (powerscorecard.org). Although we can not change landfills into anything "green" like energy star appliances, drilling these wells to absorb landfill gases can help conserve our primary source of electricity. Its a win win for the landfill vs. environment war.

powerscorecard.org, Electricity From: Landfill Gas, 2000.


Keeping things out of landfills & saving the planet

We have learned how landfills affect the environment in a harmful way, but what can we do to keep trash out of them and re-use them for new products? Well, the answer is in Energy Star products and other energy efficient items used in many new homes today. One company named Mar-Flex Building Solutions is on top of the game with their innovated ways of using recycled materials to build and use in houses. Their building products contain 25 to 100 percent recycled materials, even though current building industry standards only require 10 percent to be considered a "green" product. The first green product made by Mar-Flex was Shockwave in 2007. It was a crushproof drain board that protects the concrete. The Shockwave was made of scrap from car seats and dashboards that was heated to 350 degrees to hold together. It was the only one in the world made of 100 percent recycled material. They later produced more green products such as an air barrier, Vortex, etc (Levingston, Chelsey). Another way to help the environment and keep waste out of landfills is re-using parts from old cars in a "bone yard" then going an buying brand new parts. You can get just about anything you need for your car for a very cheap price, and it is helping the environment at the same time.

Levingston, Chelsea. Mar-Flex Developing Building Products Made From 100% Recycled Materials. 4/11/11. http://www.middletownjournal.com/news/middletown-news/mar-flex-developing-building-products-made-from-100mar-flex-developing-building-products-made-from-100-recycled-materials-1132692.html

Monday, April 11, 2011

Greenhouse Gases Caused By Landfills

Greenhouse gases are the largest reason we are facing global warming today. These gases are depleting the ozone layer that blocks the suns UV rays, and Landfills are only adding to its affect. According to Liesch.com, "Landfills are considered the largest anthropogenic (caused by humans) source of methane (CH4) in the United States. Methane is one of the major greenhouse gases. 2) Landfills produce additional greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (N2O) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)" (C-Davies). The best way to tell whether or not a particular landfill is dangerous to the environment or not is to take its carbon footprint. This tells exactly how much it is effecting the earth, particularly the part it plays in greenhouse gas emissions.

A good way to lower greenhouse gas emission caused by landfills is to store toxic chemicals in container or "carbon sinks" so that the gases do not pollute the air. Another popular practice is the "Carbon Credits." Many large companies that dont use all of their credits trade their credits with others that need them. It is almost then evened out. One particular contributor to greenhouse gases gives out less carbon, and another makes up for what that company did not use (Liesch.com).

C. Davies. "Managing Your Landfill's Carbon Footprint." 4/1/2009. http://www.liesch.com/news/managing-your-landfill%E2%80%99s-carbon-footprint

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pollution caused by landfills

As we already know, garbage causes many pollution problems and when piles of garbage sitting in one area for years is mixed with different chemicals and weather conditions, it can be fatal to the environment. The biggest gas that comes from landfills that effect the air quality is methane gas. It is greenhouse gas that comes from decomposition and it is very dangerous. According to the Energy Justice Network, "Landfill gas is about 40-60% methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide (CO2). Landfill gas also contains varying amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, sulfur and a hundreds of other contaminants -- most of which are known as "non-methane organic compounds" or NMOCs. Inorganic contaminants like mercury are also known to be present in landfill gas. Sometimes, even radioactive contaminants such as tritium (radioactive hydrogen) have been found in landfill gas" (Mike Ewall). Landfills would be a primary pollutant because the toxic chemicals are hazardous before even mixing with oxygen or any other element. Many chemicals only add to the destruction of the ozone layer that ultimately causes global warming and other environmental problems. Landfills used to be less threatening to the earth and the people living around them, but not that more plastics and toxic materials are being used everyday, it is causing more and more problems once reaching a landfill. The attached picture shows this, they are finding more and more plastic and aluminum products in landfills which take thousands of years to decompose in a landfill.

Ewall, Mike. Primer on Landfill Gas as "Green" Energy, November 2007. http://www.energyjustice.net/lfg

Monday, March 21, 2011

Landfill Soil

Good soil is one of the most important factor of many things, especially farming, but not many people know that soil also plays a big part in landfills. Each day, the landfill is covered with a layer of soil to help aid in decomposition (Bansal, K.M. and Sugiarto). This soil is usually transported to the landfill daily from an outside source since it takes a very long time for soil to appear. The texture, wetness, and slope affect the ability to spread the soil over the landfill during different seasons. The best type of soil to use over a landfill has less stones and gravel mixed in then others. These are more difficult to spread over the area. All of the soil used should be suitable for plants even though it is simply covering waste (www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov).

Not only is the soil highly necessary for a landfill, it is also very expensive and takes up just as much space as the garbage itself. The soil is more frequently exposed to pollution in a landfill as well, the soil chemicals change dramatically. This is imaginable from the constant flow of toxins that leak into the soil and ground water (K. Jeevan Rao and M.V. Shantaram). This make its all the more fascinating when thinking about the new found ability to restore a landfill, since as mentioned before, good soil is cruticial to the ability to grow crops. The chemicals in the soil is what helps break down the waste, although it is an extremely slow process.

Bansal, K.M., and Sugiarto, 1999, "Exploration and Production Operations – Waste Management A Comparative Overview: US and Indonesia Cases," SPE54345, SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference, Jakarta, Indonesia, April 20-22.

Sanitary Facilities, Sanitary Landfills.

K. Jeevan Rao
and M.V. Shantaram, Soil and Water Pollution Due to Open Landfills. 12/3/2005.

Landfill Restoration

When thinking of the years of garbage that is dumped into a landfill, it is almost impossible to imagine that anything good can come from it if it were ever closed. Although it is hard to imagine, it is possible. Proof of this was found after the Fresh Kills landfill was closed down in Staten Island. This was one of the largest landfills in the United States that dumped 29,000 tons of trash a day in it. When it was closed, they attempted to turn it into a nature preserve. Now there is grass and wildflowers growing over what used to be bags of garbage. Also, instead of mice and other rodents roaming the area, it is now being occupied frequently by red tail hawks and white tail deer (Kimbrell, Nick). Although this seems easy, it hasnt always been this way. Past studies have shown concern that the roots of the trees were not growing deep enough in the soil, causing a leak of landfill gases. They found that if mineral caps are used, restoration can be done safely (Rudi-net.com).

Kimbrell, Nick, Can A Landfill Site Ever Return To Nature?. 7/6/10.

Restoring landfill into green space such as woodland and parkland is viable, says report. 1997-2011.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Diseases Caused by Landfills

Many people may think that landfills do not cause harm to people that do not come in direct contact with them, but they are wrong. Landfills can cause many different diseases and health problems that we may not even know relate. As learned previously, the leachette systems do not hold toxic waste in for long periods of time, allowing toxins to seep in the soil and water. Some of the diseases that can be cause by this action are cancer, kindney and liver disease, brain and nerve damage, malaria, cholera, and dysentry (eHow.com). Different chemicals in waste cause different diseases. For example, if the soil was contaminated with lead, a person that comes in contact with that soil can acquire kidney or liver disease. Soil contaminated with pesticides or weed killers may cause all types of cancer. It is not just the soil that is affected, but the water as well as it seeps through the soil into the citys water system (eHow.com).

Although it has yet to be confirmed, in the city of Greensboro, NC, their have been significantly higher reports of pancreatic cancer cases near the towns landfill then in any other surrounding city in the state. They also believe that it is from toxins leaking into the soil and into the water supply (Lehmert, Amanda).

E., Jenny, Diseases Caused by Soil Pollution, 3/12/2010. http://www.ehow.com/list_6064235_diseases-caused-soil-pollution.html

Lehmert, Amanda, Cancer Cases Higher Near Landfill. 11/13/2009. http://www.news-record.com/content/2009/11/13/article/cancer_cases_higher_near_landfill

Monday, February 21, 2011

Effects of over-population on landfills

When you think about landfills and the increasing number of people living on this Earth today, it almost seems obvious that the amount of garbage thrown away a year would increase. Not only does it effect the amount of space to throw away trash, but it is also effecting our water quality in the long run. As mentioned previously, landfills have plastic liners that keeps the trash together. The only bad thing about those liners is that they do not last forever. Even landfills that have double liners begin to leak toxins in the soil which eventually gets into the ground water (Laura Ross, eHow.com). In 1988, there was a study done that showed that in 5 years, any available land space in Ohio would have to be used as a landfill because the increasing amount of trash. Thanks to the State Legislature, this did not happen because they passed laws to limit the amount of trash that they were using. Although the plan worked for the last 22 years, it is unknown what will happen in the future with the increasing population (http://www.pregnantpause.org/overpop/trash.htm). If each state starts reaching their max capacity to store trash, there would be a crisis, and as mentioned before, the more trash the weaker the leachete system. More and more toxic materials would get into our water system, causing a large unhealthy human population and a vanishing animal mass.

Jay Johansen , The Landfill Crisis. 9/10/2000.

Ross, Laura, eHow.com, Environmental Problems Due To Overpopulation . 4/15/2010.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Landfill Scavengers

Many animals make their homes in landfills, adapting to the living conditions that come along with it. From birds, to rats, raccoons, and even bears; they all feast and make a living in local landfills. Lately, there are many stories in the news around the United States of people abandoning domestic animals, such as cats in landfills. Although scavengers can live off one, cats can not. They have critical limits that make the condtions unlivable (Thetimesnews.com).

As you can imagine, there is tons of food for scavenger animals to feast off of, so none of the species are getting starved due to more aggresive animals. It is very common to see a "food web" present in a landfill; some call it the circle of life. Many ants, worms, and other insects live in them. In warmer climates, reptiles may be present, feeding off of these small insects. The birds eat the insects and reptiles, and larger animals such as raccoons, coyotes, bears, etc, eat small rodents, and insects. When any of these animals die, the insects feast off of the carcus (eHow.com). It is more common for rodents such as rats and mice to be present in inactive landfills than active ones, due to the constant activity and movement.

Thetimesnews.com, Shelter accused of leaving live animals in landfill, December 29, 2010. http://www.thetimesnews.com/articles/leaving-39732-live-pauls.html

Priddy, Brenda, The food web of organisms found in a landfill site. July 23, 2010.,56cd6b31&icp=1&.intl=us&sig=pAoV6KruzM_aitU0_FHOCg

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thermodynamics and Landfills

Also, a big problem landfills face are the consequences of lack of energy (sunlight and oxygen) in a landfill. Enzymes and microbes are the living organisms that break down waste, and without oxygen, it is an extremely long and hard process to break down or biodegrade that waste (Earth Talk online magazine). Just as seeds need sunlight and oxygen to bloom into a plant, waste needs that same enegry to decompose. Which is why there are waste products that have been sitting in landfills for thousands of years. Also, the process used to create certain things may slow the process down too, making it almost impossible to biodegrade. They form into something that is unrecongnizable, and with the low amount of soil in landfills, they may likely sit there forever. If only we could get everyone to sort their trash, they may be able to make a process that is more effective. Meaning putting things together that are easily broken down such as food, and things that take longer, such as plastic together in seperate landfills that have different approaches. Some landfills are starting to find ways to add oxygen, water and sunlight to help speed up the process but this is pricey and not likely to catch on ( Earth Talk online magazine).

There is a higher chance that if you were to bury your garbage in your backyard, that something might grow out of it, but since landfills are so compacted, it would just sit there for years as previously mentioned. Just like the process of photosynthesis, even garbage needs energy from sunlight and bacteria from the soil to grow into something else or to biodegrade. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria, and some protistans use the energy from sunlight to produce sugar, which cellular respiration converts into ATP, the "fuel" used by all living things. The conversion of unusable sunlight energy into usable chemical energy, is associated with the actions of the green pigment chlorophyll. Most of the time, the photosynthetic process uses water and releases the oxygen that we absolutely must have to stay alive (www.sinauer.com). Although biodegrading waste is not exactly the same process as plant growth, it still uses some of the same concepts and needs some of the same energy to change into a different form.

Larry West, Do Biodegradable Items Really Break Down in Landfills?http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/biodegradable.htm

Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com),

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introduction to my Landfill blog

My name is Stephanie Matson and I am going to be basing my blogs on Landfills and the effects it has on the environment. I am hoping to find lots of information that will change peoples routines when it comes to throwing things away. A landfill is a system of trash and garbage disposal in which the waste is buried between layers of earth to build up low-lying land. (Merriam-webster.com). A landfill is a carefully designed structure built into or on top of the ground in which trash or waste is isolated from the surrounding environment. This is done with a bottom liner and a daily covering of soil.  There are many parts to a landfill, the bottom liner is only one part. The liner separates trash and subsequent leachate from ground water. It can be clay or plastic,effectively creating a bathtub in the ground. If the bottom liner fails, waste will migrate directly into the environment causing dangerous and hazardous conditions. (http://www.neiu.edu/~reseller/ehpg16lndfl.htm). Everything is flattened to make room for more waste, almost like a pancake. The term sanitary landfill was first used in the 1930's to refer to the compacting of solid waste materials. The Greeks practiced landfilling over 2,000 years ago but they did not compact the waste. (Richman, Vita, The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. 2008). Nationally, about two-thirds of the countries landfills are owned by local governments while about one-third are privately owned( www.scdhec.gov/recycle ). Old and new landfills are typically located next to large bodies of water (i.e., rivers, lakes, bays, etc), making leakage detection and clean up extremely difficult.(http://www.zerowasteamerica.org/Landfills.htm ). I am hoping that I can inform many people about landfills and their effects on the Earth in future blogs, and open them up to recycling. The number of landfills in the United States is decreasing, while the volume of waste is increasing, therefore we need  to look for a change.