Picture this: You make yourself a little microwave meal for dinner one night. You sit down and begin to eat. Nothing's too out of the ordinary here. But then you have an epiphany. You look at the plastic container you're eating your food from and it fills you with sadness and disgust. For the first time in your life, you realize that this doesn't seem right. You see that that piece of plastic you have in front of you is only a part of your life for the duration of its use, 20 minutes max. And what happens after that? It's put into a big bag (plastic, of course) and shipped off to some landfill where it will sit there for all eternity, and if not that, far greater a time that you'll even be on this earth. We do this every day with countless items. We use and dispose with very little thought about it.
To this day, it deeply saddens me whenever I see someone who is living in that mindset. A person who is maybe cleaning their basement one day and fills bags with all types of items, from old children's toys to outdated clothes, and feels no guilt in sending it all off to the dump. To them, it's as if all of those items will cease to exist once they're gone and out of their life. But no, they will just be sitting in a landfill, waiting. It's disgusting.
It really makes me wonder why the human race has become so wasteful and ignorant within recent centuries. Before that, sure, we lived simpler lives. Heck, plastic hadn't even been invented yet! But we did not have the modern landfills we do now. I feel that something must be done. People need to understand that our current system is just not right.
I quote an online page of information on the history of landfills:
Garbage in landfills does not break down - a landfill is more like an airtight storage container. Even biodegradable items such as grass clippings and paper break down very slowly in a traditional landfill, making the space unrenewable. Though landfills cannot be used over and over, they are often put to good use. Closed landfills are turned into parks, golf courses, ski slopes, and parks. Homes and other buildings are not usually built on closed landfills due to settling.
You can find more information at http://www.superpages.com/supertips/landfills.html
So yes, they can reuse the land for certain things, which can make some people feel better about it then. But it also makes me wonder about what will happen as time goes on. The will come a point where we can only have so many golf courses and ski slopes. In the future, will the foundations of the homes we build rest on ancient landfills? Will your great grandchildren live a few feet above where your plastic water bottle that you use today rests, eternally awaiting decomposition? In other words, will our future be built on your trash?
Now, besides worrying about settling, as it says above, there are other reasons for not building structures above old landfills. Chemicals, for instance. There are many chemicals involved in trash that can be very harmful to human (and nature's) health. It would be impossible to remove those dangerous chemicals from already established landfills, and as it is, we aren't paying much attention to them now! Our people will continue to become sick with diseases like cancer in the future if this continues to happen. That is part of why so many people today are getting cancer, because our environment we live in (and the food we daily eat [out of those little plastic containers!]) is toxic!
You may be asking yourself what can be done then, to reverse all of this. On a personal level, you could decide to recycle as much as possible, especially glass and plastics. Purchase items that come in biodegradable packaging. Bring home your groceries in your own bags instead of plastic ones. And become an advocate for those things! Make people aware of the truth behind their garbage, and then show them how they can make a change!
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On a larger scale, the only way we can overcome this sadly wasteful cycle is to get more people aware of this. What needs to be done is having more producers of goods using more biodegradable materials in what they make, and also using recycled materials. We also need to have a more complex system of waste disposal. Japan does this. They are big on recycling what they can because, if you think about it, they don't have much room to use for landfills as it is. They have several different days of the week where different recyclable items are picked up. If we adopted this system, I can say right now that we would be drastically on a much better path for the future of this planet...
The only other thing that begs to be talked about is the current energy problem we are facing. Summed up, fossil fuels = bad. And that there are other alternative power sources that are largely untapped and could be highly useful *and* environmentally friendly! But considering I just wrote that whole thing about what to do about our current waste problem, I will save that for later.
What I'm trying to get at is that there are actual solutions for these problems we face today. We have the power to do seemingly impossible things, such as stop and even reverse global warming and make the world into a beautiful place with very few waste problems. We can be the masters of this world we occupy. If we were to all realize this and want change, change would come. The only real problem we face now is our own ignorance.