In this video Paul Andersen explains the basics of solid waste including trends over time, basic composition, and disposal. A brief description of the three R’s (reuse, reduce, and recycle) is included as ways to minimize waste. Legislation including RCRA and CERCLA (the Superfund Act) were enacted to deal with hazardous waste. A description of basic landfill construction is also included.
Transcript Provided by YouTube:
Hi. It’s Mr. Andersen and this is AP environmental science video 31. It is on solid waste. Generally
in the natural world waste is not wasted. These two dung beetles are fighting over this
ball of elephant dung as a food resource. And though most of human’s history we really
have not produced that much solid waste. This changed post industrialization, especially
after World War II. We started to live in a throw away society, where we produce waste
that we do not reuse, recycle or fix when it is broken. And so we are filling up landfills
with waste that the natural world does not want. These seagulls might we some of the
food, but the rest of if will lay in this landfill for thousands of years into the future.
And so MSW or municipal solid waste, you should understand what are the major types of waste.
It is generally going to be paper, plastics, wood, yard clippings, metal, things like that.
There are a couple of types you should be familiar. E-waste. That is going to be our
computers, phones and televisions are we throw those away. And then hazardous wastes. This
is going to be waste that causes and impact in human illness or changes that degrade the
environment. And we have regulations in place. Two that you should be familiar with are RCRA,
the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and then CERCLA otherwise known as Superfund
Act. And that is a way to clean up huge areas of hazardous waste. That solid waste is eventually
disposed of either in a landfill or incinerated. But the key point is how do we reduce the
amount of solid waste? How do we minimize that? The one that you are probably familiar
with is the idea of the three Rs. We should reduce it, reuse it, recycle it. And a type
of that is going to be composting. And so municipal solid waste, if we look over the
last half of century in the US, it has been increasing, from 88 million tons of MSW in
1960 to around 251 today. So you can see it is increasing over time. And it is starting
to level off as we start to recycle more of that. And this is per capita, per person how
much waste we are producing. You should be familiar with what most of that waste is.
This is from the EPA. It is generally going to be paper, food, yard trimmings, plastics,
rubber, metals. 251 million tons per year. If we look at how much is actually disposed
of, it is around 65 percent of that. This is to scale. And the reason why is that we
are recycling a lot of it. We are recycling especially the paper, the yard trimmings and
metal. Composting a lot of those yard trimmings. E-waste is a type of this waste. It is going
to be the electronics. We have put some of this in landfills. Unfortunately a lot of
it moves to developing countries where they recycle the parts of it and there are not
health standards in place so it is really dangerous. And then we have hazardous waste.
So chemicals that have been produced. Oven cleaner for example in your house would be
an example of a hazardous waste. And so we do not just bury that. Because it gets into
the ground supply. And so we have regulations that make sure we are storing it properly.
And that legislation could be broken down into RCRA and CERCLA. RCRA is going to be
the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. And then Superfund Act. If we look at RCRA
that is going to regulate hazardous materials from cradle to grave. From the point it is
created to when it is eventually stored. And the way that works is we leverage taxes on
the industries that produce these hazardous wastes. And we can use that to help store
them. And so for example that oven cleaner in your house that you bought for 5 bucks
is hazardous waste. And so when you are done with it, if you do not use it, it is going
to go to a place in your city where they can control that as a hazardous waste. The Superfund
Act started with a very famous contamination, it is called Love Canal. This is in Niagara
Falls, New York. And so back in the 1940s and 1950s a chemical company had been dumping
hazardous wastes and simply covering it. And eventually that land was sold off to a school.
Houses were built on top of it. We started to get birth defects, miscarriages, huge increases
in illness. And they finally could trace it back to this. And so what the Superfund Act
does is look at areas where we have huge contamination due to hazardous wastes. All the red ones
on here are Superfund sites. The green ones are ones that are done. And the yellow ones
are proposed Superfund sites. And so what we are doing is cleaning up the hazardous
waste and holding those responsible, if they are still around, those people who caused
the contamination. And so how do we minimize the amount of waste? We do not want to dispose
of it. And so we can think of it like this. From the least favorite to the most favorite.
So we can dispose of it or we can get some of the energy from it. But we want to recycle
it if we can. We want to reuse it if we can and reduce it in the first place. So if we
kind of break through those top three, in recycling, as this material goes to the landfill,
we have people that can remove some of that recycling. Stuff that we can use again. Now
that is pretty energy intensive. And so if we can us do the sorting before it actually
gets there, that is helpful. We have what is called closed loop recycling. That is where
we take something like aluminum cans and we recycle that back to make more aluminum cans.
And then we have open loop recycling. And that is when we take something like plastic
bottles and we can use that to make more plastic bottles or we can use it make something like
a polar fleece jacket. We also want to recycle nutrients. So composting in your backyard
is a way to reduce the amount that goes to the landfill. And even at a large industrial
scale. What we want to do is take those nutrients and put them back into the environment. We
can reuse things. So this is a giant coil, we had electrical coil that was wrapped around
it and it is now used as a table. So if we can use things again. If you can give it to
somebody else. Give it to Goodwill. You can sell it through EBay or Craig’s List, then
we can reuse this material. And at the best we want to not even make it to begin with.
And so if you have a bag that you take to the supermarket, then you do not have to choose
do I want plastic or do I want paper? You are not using either of those. And we can
do it on an industrial level as well. So Subaru for example is one of the first companies
to go to a zero landfill policy. They are not putting anything in landfills. How do
they do that? They are recycling. They are reusing materials. And the little bit that
is actually produced at the end, they are incinerating that to produce energy. And so
this is what one of those plants looks like. We can burn that garbage or that unused garbage
to produce a little bit of energy instead of not using it at all. And so if it eventually
moves to the point where we have to dispose of it, we have to make a landfill properly.
How do you do that? You dig a big hole. And then we are going to line it with plastic,
or better yet, clay. Clay is not going to allow material to leach out. And then it is
also going to grab a lot of those metals just due to its charge. We then put a leach-aid
system in it. So it is a bunch of pipes. And so any water that leaks out is going to be
recovered. Sometimes it is recycled back again. We then fill it up with garbage. And then
we are going to cover it with soil. We want to make sure that we compact it the whole
way so we do not have a lot of decomposition going on in there. We do not want a lot of
water to move down there. We also build pipes in there because methane gas is going to be
produced and we want to get rid of that as well. aAnd so did you learn the following?
Do you know what solid waste is? The worst type is going to be hazardous waste. We have
RCRA and the Superfund Act to kind of regulate that. We want to minimize it. We can reduce
it. We can reuse it, recycle it and compost it. And then if we have to we can incinerate
it. That is called waste to energy system. And then the last kind of ditch effort is
to put it in a landfill. But we want to make sure that we construct it properly.
So that is solid waste. And I hope that was helpful.
This post was previously published on YouTube.