Waste Less Living

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Landfill Facts

Landfills Are Not Composting Sites

They are engineered and highly sophisticated facilities requiring much land, time, expense, planning and mitigation. Their sole purpose is to store or stockpile the materials that have been discarded by society and not recovered for recycling.

Key Design Features of a Landfill

  • Open space reaching upwards of 4,250 acres in size such as the Mesquite Regional Landfill in Imperial County. The footprint of the landfill directly impacts 2,290 acres of Open Space.
  • Impermeable HDPE liners to protect the soil and underlying ground water
  • Methane Gas Recovery System – a network of pipes to collect methane gas generated from inside the landfill. A mitigation measure to avoid the migration of methane gas into the ambient air.
  • Leachate Recovery System – another network of pipes to collect the liquid or wastewater generated from within the landfill for conveying to an above ground wastewater treatment pond prior to final discharge into nearby surface waters. A mitigation measure to avoid the contamination of groundwater.

Reference: EPA website

Landfills Pollute the Air By Producing Methane Gas, If Not Recovered

When organic material like food, green waste, paper and other plant based products like compostable tableware end up in the landfill, breakdown occurs anaerobically – or in the absence of air (oxygen) to produce methane gas. Methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2).http://www.epa.gov/methane/scientific.html

Transporting organics to landfills also consumes valuable and non-renewable natural resources emitting a fair amount of toxic pollutants into the air.

Landfills Contaminate Our Water Supply

We rely on both groundwater sources and surface water for our water supply and survival. Protection of such a precious resource is paramount. However, landfills are a known source of groundwater contamination. This is so because the materials inside of a landfill leach toxic chemicals in the form of wastewater (also known as leachate) that ultimately make their way down into the underlying soil and into our underground water reserves. This is true of most landfills even of more modern sanitary landfills that are required to have in place an impermeable liner for preventing such migration. According to a US EPA sponsored study in 1993, all landfills that were tested having a double-liner in place leaked (US EPA. LDCRS Flow from Double-Line Landfills and Surface Impoundments. June 1993. Authored by Rudolph Bonaparte and Beth A. Gross.)

In addition, what leachate that is recovered and removed is ultimately treated above ground before discharging into the nearest surface waterway. Although the quality of the water discharged is regulated by water quality control agencies, water quality standards may be more or less stringent in any given year. Consequently, our surface water is also in jeopardy.


Soil Is Alive!

It is home to numerous organisms needed for sustaining healthy soils rich in nutrients made available to plants for vigorous growth and ultimately human consumption. The excessive use and application of chemicals and fertilizers on food crops kills soil organisms and consequently degrades soil fertility leading to the increase in genetically modified food crops.

For decades, farmers have relied on the use and application of chemicals and fertilizers to artificially enhance the vigor and growth of their food crops. Industrial harvesting methods involving heavy machinery leave insufficient plant litter behind needed to protect and return nutrients back to the soil. This results in soil erosion and the loss of soil fertility thereby increasing the need to supplement with chemical fertilizers. Continued use and application of fertilizers ultimately kills off the micro-organisms in the soil that are responsible for ensuring the availability of nutrients for plant uptake.

Over time, this industrial practice has led to the degradation of soil quality as the micro-organisms that once lived in the soil are killed off. New crops then are dependent on such fertilizers for their nutrient needs rather than sourcing it naturally from the soil.

“When land is overgrazed or deforested or when crops are harvested, there is often not enough plant litter remaining to protect and nourish the soil. Soil organisms die, resulting in a loss of fertility. Sparse cover allows raindrops to erode the surface, loosening the soil’s structure, freeing up fine clay particles, and transporting them downhill.8 Repeated mechanical tilling changes the structure of the soil so it erodes more easily, and compaction by heavy farm equipment reduces water infiltration and increases runoff. Nutrients are also lost when farmers fail to allow fallow periods or to replenish the soil.”

Center for Earth Leadership, Ten Stress on the Planet: Loss of Topsoil

Soil Supports Basic Human Needs: Clothing, Shelter, Food

Think about it! Our clothes are made from cotton that was harvested from a plant grown in soil. The homes we live in are built with wood that came from trees grown in soil. The foods we eat are or are a combination of plant derivatives (i.e., fruits, vegetables, grains) grown in soil. The meat we eat are from animals that consume plants (i.e. corn, hay, fruits, vegetables, grass, grains) for their own nourishment.

Topsoil Loss Is The Second Biggest Environmental Concern, Globally!

According to a study authored by David Pimentel, Professor of Ecology at Cornell University,

  • The United States is losing soil 10 times faster — and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster — than the natural replenishment rate.
  • The economic impact of soil erosion in the United States costs the nation about $37.6 billion each year in productivity losses. Damage from soil erosion worldwide is estimated to be $400 billion per year.
  • As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive.
  • About 60 percent of soil that is washed away ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, making waterways more prone to flooding and to contamination from soil’s fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Soil erosion also reduces the ability of soil to store water and support plant growth, thereby reducing its ability to support biodiversity.
  • Erosion promotes critical losses of water, nutrients, soil organic matter and soil biota, harming forests, rangeland and natural ecosystems.
  • Erosion increases the amount of dust carried by wind, which not only acts as an abrasive and air pollutant but also carries about 20 human infectious disease organisms, including anthrax and tuberculosis.

For more information, http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/march06/soil.erosion.threat.ssl.html


A 2009 EPA study reported that the nation’s recovery rate was 33.2%.

In a 2008 Container Recycling Institute report, the combined recycling rate for aluminum, plastic and glass around the late 1990′s was on the decline.

Data compiled from the Container Recycling Institute and the American Plastics Council revealed in a 2002 report that in 2001 the sale of PET bottles was near 35 Billion while the number of bottles recovered for recycling only reached 7.5 Billion.


Biodegradable Is Not The Same As Compostable

ASTM International defines biodegradation as “degradation resulting from the action of naturally-occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.”

Terms Defined:


  • material will breakdown under certain environmental conditions
  • not reliant on biological processes or the function of micro-organisms


  • material will breakdown by naturally occurring micro-organisms (ie., bacteria, fungi)
  • may leave toxic residue
  • no defined processing time


  • material will breakdown (biodegrade) via microbial activity into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass (or physical material)
  • breakdown occurs at a rate consistent with plants (i.e. plant and grass clippings, leaves)
  • material is indistinguishable upon completion of composting process
  • no screening necessary
  • leaves no toxicity

Backyard Composting Is Different From Commercial Composting

Composting Can Help Clean The Air and Water

Please call to request a copy of the reports below, (626) 765-6209.

  • Compost-Use-Mitigates-Climate-Change.pdf (REPORT)
  • Greenhouse-Gases-and-the-Role-of-Composting.pdf (REPORT)
  • Using-Compost-for-Reducing-Water-Pollution.pdf (REPORT)

Composting Can Help Improve the Quality of Our Food

  • Compost-and-Its-Benefits.pdf (REPORT)

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