Sunday, February 18, 2007

Keep Your Plastic Bag Out of the Landfill

News on two areas of interest in today's ABJ:

An update on the suspected underground fire at Countywide in Stark. (You can more about the the original story here.) Turns out there's a whole lot going on under the surface:

"Abnormally high temperatures, the release of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide, and a 30-foot settlement in part of the Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Pike Township indicate fire, said Todd Thalhamer. The California-based expert made recommendations released Friday by the state EPA.

According to Thalhamer's report, an underground metal fire in 2005 probably caused the surrounding garbage to smolder, and the compounds released produce the odors. Because the smoldering is at a lower temperature than a typical underground fire, it is not releasing toxic gases such as benzene because plastics aren't melting, Thalhamer wrote."

The landfill owner continues to downplay the story:

"Tim Vandersall, general manager of the landfill, has said he believe the problem is not a fire but a chemical reaction of aluminum waste and water.

Vandersall said Friday the landfill is safe and will be treated the same whether the hot spot is a fire or a chemical reaction.

``As I've said for six months, it doesn't matter what you call it,'' he said."

Remember that the landfill is not a government-run entity. It is a business and it is busily burying tons of Summit county waste every day. It's not like there is a whole lot of competition for its services. And it is not very likely that Summit county is going to convince its residents to heed the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) any time soon. So when the general manager tells us everything is OK, I for one have my doubts.

The new Ohio EPA director says he will wait until reading the report before acting on Countywide's renewal license. What do you want to bet that the landfill gets renewed? They may tie some provisions on to the license, but there's no way in toxic plastic hell that they'll close the place. Where will all our trash go otherwise?

Nobody really wants to face the problems of dealing with waste from our communities, let alone thinking about the total waste from 6.7 billion people. We are happy to put our trash in bags and bins and then forget about it. Somebody else will deal with it -- and they'll do it far from our homes so we don't have to smell it or see it or risk our lives from chemical explosions and fires.

Tagged on at the end of a Betty Lin-Fisher article about phone companies, is a response to a reader question about recycling plastic bags. The reader wanted to know where she can recycle her plastic shopping bags now that Tops has left the area. Tops used to provide a recycling bin at each store for shoppers to return those madly multiplying bags.

Lin-Fisher got a more detailed response from Acme than I did. Acme will NOT recycle bags, because it is just too damn inconvenient for them. According to Jim Trout, VP of merchandising and sales:

``We think recycling is best left to the communities. A supermarket, in our opinion, is not the place to do recycling,'' Trout said. Years ago, Acme did recycle plastic bags, but bags would be returned with things still in them, which made the bins unsightly and dirty."

The good news is that some Giant Eagle stores and some Walmarts provide plastic bag recycling bins. Missing from the article is information as to which stores provide the service. If any Akron area readers spot a plastic bag recycling bin, we'd appreciate it if you share the information here.

Convenience is the big enemy here, along with the capitalist drive to open more markets. Convenience has brought about the rise of non-recyclable packaging to ship fast and convenient processed foodstuffs all over the country and the world. Business leaders talk about opening new markets without thought as to what that really means. It means more stuff with more packaging ending up in landfills.

We need a new business model based on scientific research into sustaining a safe and healthy life on this planet for all people. Anything that is made should have a plan for its entire life-cycle from manufacture to shipping to use to reuse and ending with a precise recycling plan.

Do we want to continue throwing our toxic trash into a pit and covering it up with some dirt and crossed fingers that it won't ignite or leach into the water supply?


sab said...

Can we recycle plastic bags in our city recycle bins? I don't know. Just wondering.

Village Green said...

sab, I apologize for not responding to your question sooner. This has been such a hectic week, I'm amazed I've been able to muster the time and energy to post at all.

To answer your question, you can't recycle your plastic bags in your official Akron blue recycle bins. You can put your cans and plastics in a bag, but not fill a bag full of other bags. This is idiotic, if you ask me. All plastics ought to be recyclable or else not made to begin with.