Love Canal Tragedy: There is No “Away”
 1942-1953: sealed drums of 200 different chemicals waste dumped into an old canal
 1953: canal filled and covered with clay and topsoil and sold to Niagara Falls school
 Elementary school, homes, roads sewer lines built in area
 1978: school and 239 homes closed and evacuated due to leakage of chemicals into storm
sewers, basements, playground, etc.
 1980: declared a federal disaster areas and more homes purchased
 Area covered with a new clay cap and a drainage systems carries leaking wastes to a
treatment plant
 1990: EPA declared area “safe” and allowed selling of houses
 OxyChem paid $98 million to NY and $129 million to federal government
 Reminder:
We can never really throw anything away
Wastes don’t stay put
Preventing pollution is cheaper than cleaning it up
High Waste Society: Wasting Resources
Solid waste
1. Any unwanted or discarded material that is not a liquid or a gas
2. U.S. has 4.6% of population and 33% of solid waste production (11 billion tons/year, average
of 44/person)
3. 98.5% from mining, oil and natural gas production, agriculture and industrial activities used
to produce goods
4. Mining wastes = 75% and has little regulation
5. Municipal Solid waste (MSW): garbage, produced by homes and businesses in or near urban
a) 24% MSW produced in U.S. in 1995 recycled or composted
b) 76% dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators and waste-to-energy plants
c) U.S. per capita is 2 times Europe or Japan and 5-10 times as much as most developing
d) Composition of MSW in U.S.
Hazardous Waste
1. Any discarded solid or liquid material that:
a) contains one or more of 39 toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic
compounds at levels exceeding established limits (includes many solvents, paint
strippers, pesticides)
b) catches fire easily (gasoline, paints, and solvents)
c) is reactive or unstable enough to explode or release toxic fumes (acids, bases,
ammonia, chlorine bleach)
d) capable of corroding metal containers such as tanks, drums, and barrels (industrial
cleaning agents and oven and drain cleaners)
2. Does not include:
a. radioactive wastes
b. hazardous and toxic materials discarded by
c. mining wastes
d. oil- and gas-drilling wastes
e. liquid wastes containing organic
hydrocarbon compounds (80% of all liquid
hazardous waste)
f. cement kiln dust (considered recycled by EPA but called
sham recycling by environmentalists)
wastes from small businesses and factories that generate
less then 100 kg of hazardous waste per month
g. above omissions called linguistic detoxification (saves
businesses and government money and misleads
h. only 6% of hazardous waste produced classified
legally as hazardous so 94% of U.S. hazardous
waste not regulated by hazardous-waste laws
Low Waste Society: Reducing Throughput
A. Options:
Waste management
High waste approach
Views waste production as unavoidable
Attempts to manage wastes to minimize environmental harm
Ship to another state or country
e. Goal: maintain increasing throughput of matter and energy resources
through the economy
f. Cradle-to-grave system
2. Pollution prevention (p2)
a. low waste approach
b. views waste as potential resources to recycle, reuse, or compost or
harmful substances that should not be used
c. Goals:
 Reduce waste and pollution
 Reuse as much as possible
 Recycle and compost as much as possible
 Chemically or biologically treat or incinerate waste can’t reuse,
recycle, or compost
 Bury what is left in aboveground vaults or special landfills
d. Cradle-to-cradle system
e. eliminate 60-80% solid and hazardous waste and treat remaining 2040%
f. current order of priority
b. Why best choice
1. Save energy and virgin resources by keeping the quality of matter
resources high with a lower in put of high-quality energy
2. Reduce the environmental effects of extracting, processing, and using
3. Improve worker health and safety by reducing exposure to toxic and
hazardous materials
4. Decrease pollution control and waste management costs
5. Less cost on life cycle basis than cleanup (3M company began 3 P
program and saved over $750 in waste disposal costs)
c. Ways to reduce waste and pollution
1. decrease consumption
2. redesign manufacturing processes and products to use less material
3. design products that produce less pollution and waste less resources
when used
4. manufacturing designs can be redesigned to produce less waste and
5. individuals can use less hazardous cleaning products
6. green design and life cycle assessment help design products that last
longer, easy to repair, reusable, remanufacture, compost or recycle
(note: green design is design that emphasizes efficient use of matter
and energy resources, reduction of outputs of solid and hazardous
waste, and reuse and recycling of materials)
7. design products to last longer
8. eliminate or reduce unnecessary packaging
9. institute trash taxes
A. Reuse is a form of waste reduction that extends resource supplies,
keeps high-quality matter resources from being reduced to low quality
matter waste, and reduces energy use and pollution even more than
B. 1964: 89% of soft drinks and 50% of beer sold in refillable glass
bottles (by 95 only 7% or both)
C. Use plastic or metal containers for lunch and storage of leftovers
D. Plastic or paper bags? Neither, bring on reusable canvas bag
E. Disposable or cloth diapers?
F. Used tires?
1. disposal problem: space, fire hazards, breeding ground for mosquitoes
2. reuse: used in foundations and walls of solar homes, construct artificial
reefs, burned to produce electricity, recycled to make resin products
IV Recycling
A. Compost
1. Sweet-smelling, dark brown, humus-like material that is rich in
organic matter and soil nutrients
2. Produced when microorganisms break down organic matter in the
presence of oxygen
3. To compost take organic wastes, mix with soil, put in pile, stir
occasionally, leave for several months
4. Used for soil fertilizer and conditioner, as topsoil, as landfill cover,
restore land
5. Problems for large scale production:
a. place
b. odor (best way to overcome is Dutch tunnel: place in closed
metal container in which air is recirculated to give control of
available oxygen and temperature
c. toxic materials
B. Two major types of recycling:
1. Primary or closed loop recycling: most desirable, postconsumer wastes
are recycled to produce products of the same type (newspaper to
newspaper, etc.)
2. Secondary or open loop recycling: waste materials are converted into
different products
C. Centralized Recycling of MSW
1. Collect mixed urban waste and carry to centralized Materials-recovery
facilities (MRF’s)
2. Separate plastics, aluminum, glass, paper
3. Expensive to build and maintain and require a lot of energy to separate
mixed wastes
4. Need large input of garbage so encourage throughput
5. Emit toxic air pollutants and produce toxic ash, health hazards to
workers, traffic, odor, noise . . .
D. Separation of wastes for recycling
1. Separation at source into recyclable or reusable containers and/or
drop-off centers, buyback center,
2. Little water or air pollution, reduction of litter, low start-up costs,
moderate operating costs, saves energy, more jobs
3. Products usually sold for higher price
E. Now battle for garbage, why?
F. Primary benefits to recycling:
1. reduced use of virgin resources
2. reduced throughput of matter and energy resources
3. reduced pollution and environmental degradation
G. Economic sense
1. many cities lose money on recycling programs
2. cities tend to make money if have high recycling rates and a single
pickup system
H. Deterrents to recycling
1. failure to include the environmental and health costs of materials in
market price of consumer items
2. more tax breaks and subsidies for resource-extracting industries than
for recycling industries
3. lack of large, steady markets for recycled materials
I. Ways to overcome obstacles
1. tax virgin resources and phase subsidies for extraction of virgin
2. lower or eliminate taxes on recycled materials
3. provide subsidies for reuse and postconsumer waste recycling
4. require households and businesses to pay for garbage collection based
on how much used
5. encourage government purchases of recycled products to lower prices
6. view landfills and incineration as last resorts
7. require ecolabels o all products, evaluating life cycle environmental
costs and listing preconsumer and post consumer recycled content
J. Aluminum recycling
1. recycling of aluminum cans in U.S. up from 15% in 1973 to 62% in
2. better to switch to refillable glass or PET plastic bottles
K. Wastepaper recycling
1. in 1994 = 40% in U.S. (up from 25% in 1989)
2. Recycling paper saves:
a. trees
reduces air pollution from pulp mills
lowers water pollution by 35%
helps prevent groundwater contamination by toxic ink
conserves large quantities of water
f. saves landfill space
g. creates 5 times more jobs than harvesting trees for pulp
h. can save money
3. Some “recycled paper” actually made from preconsumer waste (scraps
and cuttings from paper and printing plants – always been recycled)
instead of postconsumer (intercepted on way to landfill or incinerator)
Plastic recycling
1. Plastics are polymers made by chemically linking monomer molecules
(petrochemicals) produced from oil and natural gas
2. Plastics are among leading producers of hazardous waste
3. Now account for 8% by weight and 20% by volume of MSW and 60%
of debris on beaches
4. Non-degradable or take 200-400 years to degrade and toxic cadmium
and lead compounds leach out of them in landfills
5. Only 3-6% recycled. Why?
a. Many different types of plastic resin so must be separated
b. Current price of oil low so price of virgin plastic resins 40% lower than
Solid Waste Disposal
converting waste to less hazardous or nonhazardous materials
microorganisms, usually bacteria, destroy toxic
substances or convert them to harmless form
b. if possible, cost ½ price of landfill disposal and 1/3 cost of on-site
c. works well on a lot of specific organic wastes but not toxic metal
or chemical wastes
uses plants to remove contaminants
emphasis on toxic metals not organic
most burn mixed trash (pollution!)
All burning hazardous or solid waste release toxic air pollutants
costly to build, operate and maintain
removes hazardous and unburnable materials before incinerate
large fines, jail, plant closings possible if violate air standards
40% of incinerators use fluidized-bed incineration which has higher
combustion efficiency and lower air pollution emissions
C. Land disposal
1. sanitary landfill: garbage graveyard where solid wastes are spread out
in thin layers, compacted, and covered daily with a fresh layer of clay
or plastic foam
a. lined with clay and plastic before filled
b. second bottom liner collects leachate (rainwater contaminated as it
percolates through waste)
c. collected leachate is pumped from bottom of landfill and stored in
tanks until treated
d. when “full” covered with clay, sand, gravel, and topsoil to prevent
water from getting to waste
e. wells are drilled around landfill to monitor leakage of leachate
2. Benefits of landfills
a. air pollution by burning avoided
b. odor seldom problem
c. rodents and insects cannot thrive
d. put in to operation quickly
e. low operating costs
f. handle large amount of solid waste
g. can be covered over and used for park, etc.
3. Negatives of landfills
a. cause traffic, noise, dust
b. emit toxic gases
c. slow degradation of materials
d. deprive us of reusable and recyclable materials
e. produce methane, toxic hydrogen sulfide gas and smog forming
volatile organic compounds (methane could be collected and usedrequired in new landfills)
f. possible contamination of groundwater (86% of landfills studied have
contaminated groundwater)
4. Modern double-lined landfills required in U.S. since 1996
a. accept waste for 10-40 years
b. must be monitored for 30 years after close
5. Reduction of number in U.S. since 1979 as fill and replaced by larger
local and regional landfills
D. Land Disposal of Hazardous Waste
1. Deep-well disposal
a. liquid hazardous wastes are pumped into dry, porous geologic
formations or into fracture zones of rock beneath aquifers
b. supposedly isolated from overlying groundwater by impermeable
layers of rock
c. simple and cheap so use increasing
d. if sites chosen carefully my be reasonably safe, but may have leaks in
pipe, migration of waste to other layers, etc.
2. Surface impoundments
a. ponds, pits, or lagoons sealed with plastic liner on bottom
b. solid wastes accumulate in bottom others evaporate into atmosphere
c. EPA says 70% have no liner and 90% may threaten ground water
3. Buried in landfills
a. concentrate waste, put in drums and bury in landfills
b. 5% by weight
c. possible leakage and groundwater contamination
d. possible spills in transport to landfills
Some engineers and environmentalists propose storing in large, two-story,
reinforced-concrete buildings until better technologies developed (in-sight
E. Exporting
1. may be sent to other states or countries
2. developing countries my need money so take
3. 1994: 64 countries met in Sweden and approved immediate ban on all
exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries
(U.S. only developed country failing to support ban)
4. 98% of U.S. hazardous wastes exports go to Mexico
5. Only real solution is P2
VI. Case Studies
A. Lead
1. 90% stays in body (and thus lead poisoning)
a. About 200 children die/year
b. Survivors may suffer from palsy, partial paralysis,
Blindness, and mental retardation
2. especially harmful to children and unborn fetuses
3. Government regulations have phased out leaded gasoline and lead
based solder so lead poisoning numbers dropping
4. To prevent problems from lead
a. test all children for lead by age one
b. ban incineration of solid and hazardous waste
c. phase out leaded gasoline worldwide
d. test older houses and buildings for lead
e. ban all lead solder in pipes, fixtures, and food cans
f. remove lead from municipal drinking water systems
g. wash fruits and vegetables carefully
h. test ceramic ware for lead glazing
i. reevaluate use of electric cars with lead batteries
B. Dioxins
1. family of 75 chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds formed as unwanted
by-products in chemical reactions involving chlorine and
hydrocarbons (usually high temps, especially in incinerators)
2. most common is TCDD usually called dioxin
3. stay in environment for decades, especially soil and fatty tissue
4. promotes cancer, negative effects on reproductive system, endocrine
system, and the immune system
C. Chlorine
1. highly reactive gas used to purify water, bleach paper and wood pulp,
produce household bleach products, and make chlorinated organic
2. persistent, accumulate in body fat
3. 3 largest uses are plastic production, solvents, and paper and pulp
bleaching and there are substitute methods for these
VII. Hazardous Waste Regulation in the U.S.
A. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
1. requires EPA to identify hazardous wastes
2. sets standards for hazardous waste management
3. gives guidelines and financial aid for states to establish waste
management programs
4. requires firms storing, treating or disposing of more than
220 pounds/month to have a permit stating how managed
5. EPA and state agencies do not have funding to fully
Superfund Act
1. established a $16.3 billion Superfund financed by special taxes
2. purpose to clean up abandoned hazardous waste dump sites and
leaking underground tanks
3. clean-ups are on a polluter pays principle (if culprit not found, paid for
out of superfund)
4. currently about 1,300 sites on National Priority List for cleanup
a. final cleanup of a site may take decades
b. 1980-1995 only 56 Superfund sites cleaned up enough to be removed
from priority list
5. does not cover toxic military dumps
VIII. Achieving a Low-Waste Society
A. Grass-roots Action (bottom up change)
1. Don’t compromise children’s future by cutting deals with polluters and
2. Don’t be bulldozed by scientific and risk analysis experts
3. Hold polluters and elected officials personally accountable
4. Don’t fall for the argument that protesters are holding up progress
5. Oppose all hazardous-waste landfills, deep-disposal wells, and
6. Recognize there is no such thing as safe disposal of a toxic or
hazardous waste (NIABY or NOPE)
7. Pressure elected officials to pass legislation requiring unwanted
industries and waste facilities be distributed more widely instead of
concentrated in poor and working-class neighborhoods
8. Ban all hazardous-waste exports form one country to another
B. Transition to Low Waste Society
1. Live by 4 key principles
a. everything is connected
b. there is no “away”
c. dilution is not the solution to most pollution
d. the best and cheapest way to deal with waste and pollution is to
produce less, reuse and recycle
2. Individual actions: