Today is the first edition of the Freedom From Waste Blog. The waste industry is changing very rapidly and mostly without the public’s knowledge. Freedom From Waste’s mission is to remove the obligation of being worried about our waste; the environmental impact of it, future generations and dwindling resources.
Are we trying to recycling materials that can’t be recycled? For the last 30 years we have been told we could feel good about recycling plastics, paper, metals and many other items. Some of these materials are very recyclable and work just as well the 20th time they are used as the first. There are also a lot of items being Decycled, meaning they never could be what they once were, so they have to be something else and decrease in performance and value. Plastic bottles couldn’t be plastic bottles again, and could only be pelletized then pressed into, say, a park bench. Some may see this as a good thing and a way to recycle, but if not for plastic, that bench would be made of metal and wood. Both of which are more recyclable and better for the environment than plastic. These types of situations are all over the recycling world. Few of you probably know that even with current recycling, we are consuming raw resources at a rate that would take 1.7 earths to sustain our way of life for future generations.
Our landfills are almost full: A study done in 2013 shows our landfill society has limited time left. “The scientists also found that the average landfill has about 33 years left in capacity, but that overall waste is increasing by 0.3 percent a year, according to data collected from 2010 to 2013.” The same year the EPA came out and said we are landfilling twice as much as they thought. “Researchers found that people threw away 289 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2012, a figure that is more than double the 135 million tons that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated for that same year. The new estimate also exceeds by 4 percent the World Bank’s predictions for the amount of waste the United States will generate in 2025, the researchers said.” A study in 2015 says “Seven states are looking at running out of landfill space in the next five years, one state will reach capacity in five to 10 years and three states have 11 to 20 years to go, but 22 states have available landfill space for decades to come”, says Bryan Staley, PhD, PE, President and CEO of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF). Nationally, Staley says he estimates that the U.S. has about 62 years of landfill capacity remaining in its current facilities. Also, effective December 31, 2017, China banned waste being imported from other countries. You’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal, because why would any county send their waste to China? The USA has been sending the majority of our recyclables there for decades. Now the waste and recycling world is being turned on it’s head with nowhere to go with these materials. Multiple cities, counties, and states are already removing recycling bans from their landfills so they can landfill their recyclables and some are just canceling their recycling programs altogether. The large companies in this industry own the landfills and make more profit off of landfilling resources than anything else. They are publicly traded companies with only an obligation to make their stockholders a return. All of this combined means we have one, maybe two, generations to fix this. We have 25-50 years before our resources are depleted, before we have no where to put our trash, before this entire Industry collapses.
Time to change our views? Originally, the waste industry was developed to fight the plague. Bacteria were building up and spreading from waste just being tossed out windows or thrown on the ground. Once regular collection and indoor plumbing were installed, the plague became manageable. Since the start of this industry the goal has been to remove the waste from people’s homes, businesses and public places. We saw waste as disgusting and worthless. Now we are dealing with the negative effects of thinking that way. We need a closed looped system that properly manages our resources. We need to value our waste as the resource that it is. Everything in a trash can had a value before it went in there. Everything you throw away you spent time or money to get.
Motivation: I see a future where we recycle like the earth does. Remember: our resources come from the earth and if we pay attention, nature will show us how to recycle them. My dream is the act of “throwing something out” will be the start of the manufacturing process. Imagine a world where manufacturers used recycled materials to make their new products. Now the waste has value again! The possibilities and the opportunities to build businesses and jobs are limitless with this system. These ideas are all around the world and being done by companies like Patagonia who take all their clothes back, fix them and resell them on a second website. We are taking this problem on by being the hauler, looking at what people are throwing away and what we do with it.