Landfills should be the last resort

 landfill top

The cradle-to-cradle principles drive waste management around the world. According to the practice, landfills brimming with unrecycled rubbish are the least desirable outcome when it comes to getting rid of the world’s waste.

Solid waste landfills are a potential danger to the environment, which municipalities mitigate by using a synthetic liner to isolate the refuse. Its purpose is to bury the refuse in such a way that it will be isolated from groundwater, will be kept dry and will not be in contact with air.

Under these conditions, refuse does not decompose much. The landfills also contain waste that could have been recycled, with the amount of such waste varying from country to country. And as the world’s population expands and consumerism grows, more and more landfills have to be created. Land used for solid waste that is recyclable is land wasted – it could have been used for agriculture or housing, for example.

But much solid waste can be recycled, such as paper. Paper recycling follows a set process:

  1. Paper is collected for recycling from industry, schools, homes and offices, from across the country.
  2. The collected waste paper goes to a recycling plant, where it is tipped into a vat and mixed with water and chemicals that turn into a slush.
  3. The slush is cleaned several times to remove items like staples, thread and grit.
  4. A machine removes printer’s ink from the slush using water and soap – the soap makes bubbles that lift out the ink.
  5. After the slush has been cleaned three more times, it is bleached and cleaned yet again.
  6. From the recycling plant it goes to the machine that makes new paper.

Many South African newspapers are printed on paper that contains 25% recycled paper pulp.

● Sources: Enviropaedia, Mpact Paper Pickup, and Bureau of International Recycling