The third segment of the solid waste episode of Chronicle, the Boston TV news magazine, opens with some pretty grim statistics about the state of waste disposal in Massachusetts. As WasteZero’s Stephen Lisauskas explains, landfill space is quickly dwindling in Massachusetts: while there were more than 300 landfills operating in the 1980s, there are only 7 today. And even those that are still open are not always a safe bet, in terms of safety and the environment, as Kirstie Pecci from the environmental advocacy group MASSPIRG points out: “Inevitably, landfills always fail.” Pecci cites contaminated ground water and surface water, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, as some of the greatest problems. “There are a lot of negative health effects around landfills,” she says.
Meanwhile, the garbage sent to waste incineration facilities sometimes fares little better, from an environmental and public health perspective. Lisauskas explains:
“There are emissions that are created, and the incinerator can’t control the material that comes in. So if there are batteries in there, there’s the potential for negative emissions. If there are other things that are potential contaminants, that material is incinerated, the emissions go up, and then they are in the atmosphere where people may breathe them in.”
As the Chronicle piece shows, all the garbage we throw away isn’t only a financial burden on our communities, but it can also put people’s health at risk. Knowing that makes efforts to create less trash in the first place more important than ever.