Reducing Our Garbage Footprint

Every Thursday, the houses in our neighborhood put their trash out by the curb for pick-up. When I walk the dogs on a Thursday morning, I’m always amazed by the cumulative output, from just one neighborhood in just one suburb of just one American city.

My goal therefore is to make sure that our house sets out the smallest amount possible.  I toss every bottle, aluminum can, milk jug, and other plastic item in their recycling bin.  I break down even the most sturdily constructed cardboard box and throw every stray scrap of paper — newspapers, brochures, mail-order catalogs, and junk mail included — into the paper recycling container.  I put food scraps into the garbage disposal and rake yard waste into the beds behind our shrubs.  I know these efforts are small, but the multiplication effect means that little efforts can have large consequences.

In any case, I feel better knowing that our garbage footprint is as small as possible.  Some years ago I had a case involving landfills that addressed how they are constructed and operated.  I learned how they are lined, and capped, and how leachate — great name for the fluid that inevitably seeps out of  crushed garbage, isn’t it? — is collected.  Landfills are carefully regulated and engineered, but the fact remains that they are permanent pockets of garbage buried across the landscape that will forever limit how those locations can be used.  I don’t want our little household to contribute unnecessarily to their proliferation.

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