The Long, Winding and Sometimes Smelly Road to Modern Landfills
In 2016, Miami County residents produced 73,709 tons of waste-- -- and managed to recycle 39,348 tons. But that meant 34,361 tons had to go somewhere-- -and in Miami County, ours went to the Cherokee Run Landfill in Logan County. We’ve come a long way over the centuries. But it’s been a long, winding and sometimes smelly road.
According to environmental issues specialist Elizabeth Ward, historically “trash and human waste was simply thrown into the streets or outside the gates.” Of course, rising population led to more trash, rat infestations and compromised drinking water. Articles abound about the deplorable health conditions in Victorian London. Some estimates have put the average age of death during the time period at 29, and others as low as 15 for some strata of society. There were still vague understandings of the relationship between improperly processed trash and waste and the actual causes of disease and contamination. But people still flocked to the major cities. The trash problem increased.
Let’s fast forward to the 20th century, where the need to deal with waste became advanced as science and understanding continued to advance. Incineration remained a common method of disposal for much of the time period. It was a leg up over simply living with trash being thrown in the streets or a nearby dump. But consider the complexity of the problem. Emissions from incinerators, fire hazards, and incinerator ash posed new problems. They still are in some emerging nations today.
Did our American “know how” give us a leg up over our European counterparts? We created some interesting, and in some cases, comic solutions to waste management. Believe it or not, some towns had something called “piggeries.” We’ll read about them in an upcoming blog.
YOUR TURN: What is one thing you can begin to do to eliminate your waste pound per day usage? Could it be as simple as creating a Weight Watchers style (“WASTE” Watchers) Point Log? What if you began weekly to simply count how many bags of trash you placed in your personal garbage can? And set quarterly goals to reduce them by “X” amount each quarter? What if the whole county could be engaged in such a process? Could we possibly reduce the need for landfills in our nation?
Here are some great articles on how modern people are reducing waste at home!