To put our bins on the curbside on time for collection is probably a bigger concern to most of us then where our rubbish ends up. However, this week as the dump truck whisked away, I started pondering just that. If each household rids of this much refuse each week or fortnight, how do landfill’s cope with the sheer volume of rubbish? And how long does this trash hang around before it starts breaking down?
With a little research I discovered that kiwis send approx 2.5 million tonnes of waste to the landfill each year (Ministry of the Environment). To paint a picture- if every kiwi heaped one month’s worth of their rubbish onto a rugby field, it would tower thirty storeys high! Included in this pile would be an estimated 40 million disposable nappies. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, the bulk of our national pile will never decompose. Apparently, 3/4s of our refuse could be recovered, reused, recycled or composted.
Another interesting fact is that biodegradable waste (food, kitchen scraps, green waste etc.) actually need air to break down. There is no air in amongst rubbish buried deep in a landfill, so this waste breaks down anaerobically and creates other problems such as toxic run off into our water ways, and methane and carbon dioxide gases that contaminate the air we breath.
On a more positive note, there is something easy you and I can do to help fix all those problems (without having to be a tree hugging hippy!). Instead of sending your kitchen and garden waste off to the landfill, simply compost it at home. Whether its a worm farm, Bokashi system or a simple compost bin you can easily turn all your household kitchen and garden waste into a valuable resource that can feed your garden.
As we go about our daily lives, we leave behind a mountain of rubbish that gets bigger every year. What if everyone was to change their ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality, and take steps to further minimize their waste? Part of the solution can be found in the same place the problem starts- in our homes.