i’m currently reading the book gone tomorrow: the hidden life of trash. essentially it’s all about how this country is consuming more and more and, as a not-so-shocking result, our waste is rising at an equal rate. the book covers the history of garbage in the US: how human excrement and food waste used to be a terrific system of trade with farmers for fertilizer and pig slop, and in return the farmers provided the city with fruit and meat. is was an effective social system.
but then the industrial revolution happend, and in war times it was necessary that we mass produce in order to compete with other countries making weapons, transportation, packaging, etc. as production increased, so did the possibility of buying new goods rather than recycling old ones at home. thus, consumption rose drastically and we were presented with a problem of what to do with all the garbage.
enter modern landfills.
these landfills are huge, but no one notices them because they’re typically discretely located in the poorer areas surrounded by huge walls and are virtually inaccessible to the public. there are a number of ways the waste companies deal with the trash, but none are anywhere near perfect. many simply bury the waste creating leaching into the ground water. others burn it releasing dioxins into the air.
enter adam’s idea.
so i’m thinking. what is some way that we can manage to reuse some of this filth like they did in the 1800s? how can we balance this somewhat? what is the one thing that this country produces that could assist in the excess waste we have going on? my answer was concrete.
so i had this idea: why don’t we figure out ways to take the elements in trash and stick them into the roads and buildings? that way we could dispose of it in a way that a) wouldn’t pile it up in nasty relatively ineffective landfills or b) pollute the environment at all.
buzzkill number one: the thing i quickly realized is that just grinding it up and sticking trash in the cement would compromise the structural integrity of the concrete – so that’s out of the question as far as buildings and major highways go – but what might be possible is to extract aluminum and iron from the pile and piles of waste and at least utilize it.
concrete is made up of mostly calcium (from limestone), with silicon (from sand and clay), and some metals (mainly aluminum and iron). the mixture is crushed, powdered and turned into cement. so my idea is to pull recycled aluminum and iron instead of going straight iron and aluminum ore producers.
buzzkill number two: turns out they already do this sometimes too, so that made my idea relatively ineffective and ultimately boring. essentially the idea i was proposing is that we recycle cans. gosh. how freaking revolutionary. i guess i need to move on to figure out how one could utilize typically non-recyclable materials to produce other goods. like figure out a way to turn packaging (accounting for 51% of landfill trash) into buildings. maybe it’d be possible to produce some sort of building compound out of bulk paper. or maybe its possible to harness the dioxins produced and bond them with something else to make them useful. got me. i’ll look into it though.
for now, i’ll just support recycling even though i’m completely aware that is isn’t good enough. sigh.