What If We Woke Up One Day to Find All the Landfills Full?
Here is a crazy idea for the next blockbuster film depicting future generations living in a dystopian world: producing tons of garbage and having no landfill space to deal with it. Right now, the idea seems too farfetched to believe. But it could someday be reality. Landfills are not bottomless pits capable of continually accepting trash as fast as we produce it and most communities push back on the idea of opening a new landfill in their back yards.
This is one of the big reasons we are on a mission to convince people to stop using single-use alkaline batteries. There really isn't any justification for manufacturing these batteries anymore. State-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries offer superior performance. They can be charged 1,000+ more times. They beat single-use alkaline batteries in every respect. And yet we keep making the batteries and throwing them into landfills Hopefully you are recycling, but the unfortunate truth is that many people just toss their used batteries in the trash.
Sometimes humanity needs a big jolt to affect a paradigm shift. It appears as though that's exactly what we need to convince people to ditch disposable batteries. Running out of landfill space would certainly qualify, but we would rather not wait until that becomes reality.
Mountains of Trash
Have you ever visited an actual landfill? If so, you know that it starts as a flat piece of land into which a big hole is dug. The hole is covered with a liner before they start dumping trash in. Eventually, it fills up. So what do they do? They build a berm around the hole so that they can throw more trash in. Over many years of doing this, they end up with a mountain of trash that eventually gets covered with topsoil and grass seed.
Now, imagine waking up one morning and discovering that all the landfill space is completely filled. There may or may not be a place to build a new landfill. What happens then, truck the garbage even farther to a place where someone agreed to build a landfill? We need to find some other way to deal with our trash.
Throw It in the Incinerator
We don't want mountains of trash dotting the landscape. We do not want to turn our cities or nearby land into giant dumps. So perhaps a better solution is to throw all that trash in the incinerator. After all, we can get rid of ash a lot easier. It sounds like a doable solution but there are of course complexities, tradeoffs and downsides.
Incineration is combustion. It's burning. If you have ever tried burning trash in your back yard, you know just how much filthy contamination gets added to the atmosphere. It takes a lot of resources to ensure incinerators don’t create air pollution and inevitably there are other downstream effects when you burn trash at a massive scale.
But We Can Work Around It
When concerned people bring up the possibility of running out of landfill space, a common response is that we can work around it. That is hard to argue. Humanity has a long history of creating problems and then working to find solutions. Sometimes it is necessary. Other times, it's the hard way of doing things.
We can find workarounds should we ever run out of landfill space. But we can also start changing the way we do things now so that running out of space never becomes a problem. For example, we can stop manufacturing and throwing away single-use products such as bottles, containers, alkaline batteries.
Convincing the entire world to ditch disposables in favor of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries will not be enough to solve the landfill issue. But it's a start and one that is now possible for most consumers. If we could accomplish that much, we could put our minds toward making other changes.
- Tags: Economical Sustainability