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28 Jan 2011
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What is garbage?
Material that has no apparent, obvious or significant economic or beneficial value to
humans that is intentionally thrown away for disposal
But some do have value
Composition of dumps and amount of garbage changed radically after WWII, a whole
range of material were developed, such as plastic
Before WWII, not a lot of waste were toxic
Increase in wealth in the past 50 years, packaging material become such a small amount
of the whole cost
Huge increases in waste production
From 1960 to 1990 US garbage production per capita almost doubled from 2.7 lbs/per
capita to 4.5 lbs/per capita
Changed retail system, packaging became crucial
Major change in composition of waste, grow of plastic products and packaging, household
chemical, disposable products
Changing dump technology
First half of 20th century, most dumps were pits in valleys or off cliffs
Increase concern about rats, disease, led to development of sanitary landfill technology
Water draining from dumps was highly toxic, liners are now used
Soil layers were spread on top of each days dump to prevent disturbance
161 former land dumps in Toronto
sanitary landfill creates leacheate
Main problems with landfills?
- 300+ years to decompose
- Liners we are dumping on now, wont last 300+ years
What is in our waste stream?
Many products take centuries to decompose, and emit toxic chemicals in the process
Why is garbage an unusual product?
No economic value, but economic cost to dispose
Normal markets do not work (market failure)
If full costs of disposal are charged to consumer (disposer) then it is not so hard to avoid
the charge
Illegal dumping is difficult to stop, a response to increased fees to dispose of garbage
Public interest for city government to dispose of garbage
Usually a free service, included in property tax
Price communicate what consumers want in capitalism, but not for garbage
The incineration solution
Garbage crisis in 1990s
Huge opposition to new landfills
Response was the building of incinerators to burn garbage
Burning garbage to produce electricity is widely used
Incinerators were often built in poor areas
Problems with incinerators include air pollution
Highly toxic ashes left over
Incinerators discourage recycling programs, as they need a constant waste stream
A Toronto story
In the mid 1980s Toronto was running out of landfill space
Major landfills were already closed, Keele Valley had a limited further capacity
In 1989, one proposal was to dump near Kirklands lake
Main reasons for opposition
Contaminating groundwater
Contamination of surface water
Untested design hydraulic trap contaminant water will flow in, leacheate will be
pumped out, treated, dumped in nearby river
Toxins might bioaccumulate (worm > bird > fox > etc.)
Negative effect to tourism and farming
Reduce incentive for waste reduction and recycling
Impossible to know long term risks
Native land rights
Story continues
1990 Toronto selects the Adams Mine as top choice
Local opposition is intense
1992, Toronto must deal with its own garbage within GTA
1996, a private company buys mine, prepares it for privately run landfill
Toronto rejects Adams Mine for environmental and liability reasons
Ontario passes Adams Mine Act to prevent future use as megadump
End of megadump
After Adams Mine, Toronto trucked its waste to Michigan for almost a decade
Much cheaper to create a composting program and recycling
Keele Valley closed in 2002
In 2006 Toronto bought Green Lane landfill near London Ont.
Green Bins
Collect food waste, wet paper waste, pet waste
Largest organic waste diversion program on the continent
Has a 87% participation rate
The challenge is that the compost is so clean that people dont mind putting it on their
Hard to implement Green Bin into apartments