Why Landfills Don’t Fill Their Need
July 5, 2023
Plastic pollution is a harrowing problem detrimentally impacting our planet’s air, waterways, and, most of all, our land. Land pollution, also known as terrestrial pollution, is the most prevalent form of plastic pollution. Terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution — estimated at 4 to 23 times higher, proving this problem poses an imminent threat for all life on Earth.
The pollution clogging our lands is a result of missteps during the life cycle of plastics. The plastics life cycle includes production of the plastic, distribution, and final disposal. Once plastics have been used, how they are disposed of greatly varies. Some plastics are sorted through waste management, changed in shape and consistency to suit their new purpose, and re-enter the production and use phase.
However, most plastics are incinerated, openly burned, disposed of in landfills/dumpsites, or escape into the environment due to errors in the microfiltration process. In fact, only 9% of the plastic we discard every day is recycled or incinerated in waste-to-energy facilities. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it may take up to 1,000 years to degrade, leaching potentially toxic substances into the soil and water.
When processed and disposed of correctly, plastics are turned into biosolids. Biosolids are a product of the wastewater treatment process. During wastewater treatment the liquids are separated from the solids. Those solids are then treated physically and chemically to produce a semisolid, nutrient-rich product known as biosolids.
“Biosolids” and “sewage sludge” are often used interchangeably. Just because they are disposed of correctly” does not mean they pose any threat to the environment. While biosolids are beneficial in some aspects, they pose health risks such as potential exposure to pathogens and other harmful substances. Biosolids are used prominently within landfills, but these landfills have the potential to leak toxic chemicals into our soil and inevitably go on to affect all forms of life via food chain contamination.
With these chemicals present in the soil, this not only harms the soil itself, but also all of the plant life and other lifeforms living within the soil. When these plants or insects are consumed, they pass on the contamination until they reach the top of the food chain and begin to affect humans as well.
Knowing plastic pollution not only affects us, but quite literally everything around us, it is time for action. It is time to do your part. It is time to make the choice to End Plastic Pollution, and make the choice to stop contributing to terrestrial pollution by signing the petition for a Global Plastics Treaty so greater efforts can be made to stop the destruction of our planet.