How Garbage Is Decomposed and Repurposed
As human beings, we generate tons of trash throughout our lifetimes. Whether you’re an individual tossing everyday items into your bin or running a large corporation disposing of waste, it’s almost impossible to avoid producing garbage in one way or another. While we’ve all seen a rise in initiatives attempting to reduce the amount of waste we create, the waste removal industry continues to thrive as we continue to consume and dispose of our byproducts.
Many find it surprising that there is an entire sector devoted to getting rid of and upcycling our trash. However, not many people understand the life cycle of waste or where it goes, or even how professionals deal with certain materials. If you’re curious about the ins and outs of the waste disposal industry, learn about how garbage is decomposed and repurposed through various means.
Garbage Decomposition Timeline
If you want to understand what happens to your dumped items, you need to know how certain things decompose. Depending on the material, decomposition can take anywhere from a few months to millions of years.
Organic waste, like banana peels and apple cores, breaks down quickly, while manufactured materials like glass, plastic, and Styrofoam take several millennia, if they ever decompose at all. These items take up space in dumps and landfills all over the country, creating environmental hazards and acting as an eyesore to an otherwise beautiful landscape.
Where Does Your Waste Go?
It’s unlikely that the average person or business puts a lot of thought into how garbage is decomposed and repurposed. As consumers, we know the steps we take to dispose of our waste:
- We purchase products and materials that either have disposable parts or limited life spans.
- We use these products until they’re no longer useful.
- We dump materials in garbage cans or dumpsters for waste removal companies to collect.
- Garbage companies visit sites regularly and remove waste from the premises.
Once our trash is out of sight, we don’t usually think about it again until it’s time for another trash collection. But where does all of our waste go? Garbage companies usually sort through it, but depending on the material, there are some options.
The most obvious locations for garbage are landfills. These sites hold all of the waste that garbage companies collect until they’re full. Then, professionals compact the material and bury it with clay and topsoil. Now, the landowners can turn the area into any kind of location, as regulated by law.
Did you know that there are different types of landfills? There are three main categories for different types of waste:
- Municipal solid waste landfills: MSW landfills typically hold trash individuals generate in their homes. This is where the items you throw away in your trash cans go.
- Industrial waste landfills: Manufacturers and large corporations need a special place to dispose of their waste. These sites mainly collect debris from construction sites but can contain a variety of materials, like concrete, lumber, and metal.
- Hazardous waste landfills: If a business generates hazardous waste, it must go to a hazardous waste landfill. Experts closely monitor these locations to minimize any potential harm to the environment.
Resource Recovery Plants
As society starts to take environmental efforts more seriously, some cities choose to dispose of waste in alternative ways. One of these methods includes using resource recovery plants. These sites burn certain materials that are safe to release into the atmosphere.
Experts monitor this process and have even found ways to repurpose the fumes to provide energy. Resource recovery plants are typically more cost-effective and use advanced technologies to purify fumes before releasing them into our environment.
Recycling centers, or materials recovery facilities, are unique locations that aim to repurpose garbage into usable products and materials. A lot of waste in landfills takes years to break down, while other materials, like plastic, paper, and fabrics, can transform into something entirely new with the right resources.
It’s important to remember that recycling should take place before sending waste to a removal company, not after. Big businesses and manufacturing plants should implement eco-friendly policies that encourage people to recycle appropriate materials. This way, repurposable garbage will go to the correct facility instead of winding up in a landfill to take up space.
Organic Processing Facilities
People typically picture sorting through soda cans, plastic water bottles, and cardboard boxes when they think about recycling. But did you know that you can also recycle your organic waste? Composting is the latest garbage removal trend born out of a desire for more eco-friendly waste disposal methods.
Organic materials like food scraps decompose naturally and release methane gas, negatively impacting the environment. Instead of allowing them to waste away in landfills, organic processing facilities help compost organic waste. Many cities across the country employ community composting programs to incentivize people to be more mindful about their scraps. These facilities also utilize anaerobic digestion processes to repurpose composted materials into energy.
Why Does It Matter?
Most people think about their trash in an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of way. Once we toss all of our unneeded stuff, we never think about it again. So, why do garbage decomposition and repurposing methods even matter? It’s a more high-stakes topic than many would like to admit.
Our waste has tremendous impacts on the health and safety of our communities and our environment. We can’t continue to fill our land with trash faster than we’re disposing of it because the Earth is a finite space. In addition, certain disposal methods can displace wildlife from their homes, release toxic fumes into the atmosphere, and kill nutrients in our soil. It’s essential to understand the current waste disposal methods in order to build new and improved systems that will combat our current issues with modern solutions.
Entities that produce the most garbage should get ahead of the problem by working with reputable waste cleanup companies. These businesses specialize in trash removal methods that benefit the environment and adhere to all state and federal requirements. This way, you can be confident in the knowledge that you’re helping create a cleaner, more sustainable world.