If the garbage was in your compost bin, it goes to where all good vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves and weeds go to rot…a composting facility. This is the place where bacteria and fungi in the soil feed on the organic waste and break it down into a dirt dessert called humus that’s full of rich nutrients plants need.
Making Things New Again
Aluminum cans go to aluminum companies where they are made into new cans, and can be back on grocery shelves within two months! Plastic bottles are used to make carpeting, flowerpots, trashcans and clothing. Glass bottles become new bottles or are used to build roads. Mixed paper reappears in insulation or packaging, and scrap metal is used to make cars and other metal products.
Life at a Landfill
If your trash is not compostable or recyclable, away usually means the landfill. Once at the landfill, your trash is either burned or buried. If trash is to be burned, it’s thrown into big incinerators where the burning trash becomes energy for heating or electricity.
If trash is buried in a landfill site, plastic and clay liners are spread underneath the garbage to make sure the trash doesn’t contaminate nearby soil and water resources. Pipes are installed to collect polluted water and any bad gases created by the garbage. The surface area of the landfill is covered daily by dirt to keep the birds and rats away, and to keep the smell down. When the landfill is full, the garbage heap is covered with plastic, then topped off with lots of soil and grass and plants, and then turned into playgrounds or parks.
Trash That Won’t Go Away
The problem is that landfill garbage takes forever to decompose because it’s too tightly packed together, and smothered by plastic. In order to break down, trash needs air, water, heat, and soil microbes (bacteria and fungi) to be around and work their decomposing magic. Burning trash is an issue, too, because incinerators can release bad greenhouse gases into the air.
Use It Again!
So what can you do? Reduce your waste by buying only what you need, and then buying things with less packaging. Reuse as much of your trash as possible by finding a new purpose for it, or by donating it to someone in need. And definitely recycle, which always makes old things new again. Instead of “throw it away” lets “use it again!”