The world’s trash disposal system is one of the biggest failures of modern governments. Around 95% of our solid waste is thrown directly in landfills, even though most of it could be easily recycled . This equates to a gigantic 2.12 billion tons of waste every year. Around 45 thousand tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean annually, contributing to the death of millions of marine organisms. In order to better understand what happens to our garbage after we throw it in the trash can, we need to explore every step of the disposal process.
- Step 1: You fill your trash bin and place it on the curb to be removed
- Step 2: The garbage collection man comes
- Step 3: The garbage is unloaded at a transfer station
In many transfer stations, household rubbish will be sorted to remove anything that may be recycled. However, this involves intensive labour, and often poses health risks to workers. Things like plastic bottles, paper, metal, and items still in good condition can be removed to prevent unnecessary things going to landfill. In some places, items such as furniture, bicycles, or old books and CDs are sold in a ‘tip shop’ at bargain prices .
Once the recyclables have been removed from the general trash, then they are sorted further to enable efficient disposal. Metals, plastics, glass, and paper products are all separated. Once everything has been sorted, the trash must then be taken to its final destination.
- Step 4a: Landfil
In many places, non-recyclable garbage is disposed of using the traditional method of landfills. In a landfill, trash is basically buried, layer after layer, and left to decompose naturally – something which can take thousands of years for certain plastics and glass .
- Step 4b: Incinerator
In some places, waste is treated in an incineration plant. This involves the combustion of the organic substances contained in waste materials, and can greatly reduce the garbage volume. Incineration converts waste products into ash, gas, and heat. The ash is generally composed of the inorganic components of the waste, while the gas is primarily made of water vapor and carbon dioxide combined with others. Before this mixture is released into the atmosphere, it must be filtered to remove any solid particles or polluting gases. In certain cases, the heat generated by incineration plants can be used to generate electricity, which is just one way of turning our garbage into a useful product .
- Step 4c: Recycling Center
Any recyclables which were sorted from the waste in the transfer center are then taken to the recycling center for treatment. Here, waste products are converted into reusable materials, which prevents the loss of precious natural resources to landfill. Many countries are continually striving to increase the proportion of their wastes which are recycled, but this isn’t always an easy task. However, it is a necessary one if we have any hope of a bright future for planet earth .