Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Week of Waste: Day 2 - Where does it all go?

Day 2 - 19 bits of waste

Monday I was responsible for 39 bits of waste.  There were 39 things in my life that were headed for the trash, recycling, compost, or flushed down the toilet.  Included in this collection of detritus were banana peels, tissues, plastic bags, chicken bones, a tiny sticker from a tomato, a toilet paper roll, some junk mail, and a cat food can.  Many of these items will be recycled or composted as my city has curbside recycling and my landlords provide composting via a local service.  

The trash that is leftover, that can be neither recycled nor composted, will go to EcoMaine and be burned in the incinerator at the trash to energy plant.  The remaining ash will take up only 10% of the landfill space that my trash would have were it not incinerated.  The energy the plant generates powers the plant, the recycling facility, and has enough left over to provide power for approximately 15,000 homes.  This is power generated without burning additional fossil fuels and also prevents trash from sitting in a landfill where it can create dangerous greenhouse gasses, such as methane, as it decomposes (landfills are the third largest source of people related methane emissions in the US).  

Day 2 - 20 bits of waste
EcoMaine also handles the recycling and if you are local to Southern Maine, I highly recommend taking one of their tours as the sorting process, and the machines that do much of the work, is fascinating to witness in action. My compost, picked up weekly by Garbage to Garden, goes to a composting facility on a farm in a nearby town.  The toilet paper that I flush makes its way, along with the other 18-million gallons of wastewater Portland generates daily, to the wastewater treatmentfacility located just a few blocks away from where I live.   

All the waste I generate is processed within a 15-mile radius of my apartment. 

I know all this information in part because waste interests me.  My degree is in sustainable business and I work in the sustainability field, but you don’t need a degree to find out where your waste ends up.  All this information for your particular location can generally be found via a few simple online searches.  

Today I leave you with some questions.  Do you know where your waste goes once it leaves your home or business?  How far does it travel before it reaches its final destination and what happens to it when it arrives there?  Does it go into a landfill?  Is it burned?  Is it recycled?

You can feel free to share what you learn in the comments. 

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