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Biodegradability in Landfills a Myth? Help!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
So I am doing a speech in my environmental history class regarding the ecological impact of parenting practices (focusing on formula waste and disposable diaper waste). I have come across several statements that biodegradable items don't biodegrade in air-tight landfills, that biodegradability is essentially a myth. So, my question is, are all landfills air-tight? Do you think that biodegradable items are "feel-good" items and don't really make an impact on waste?
post #2 of 6
Great question! :
post #3 of 6
yes, landfills are air-tight, and air is required for decomposition to occur. I can't remember if I saw it on the documentary "Garbage Mountain" (but I've seen it referred in several places), but there are sociologists who have bored into landfills to see what's what, and there are completely intact 50+ year old newspapers and food.

Most biodegradable product marketing is just to make people feel good, IMO. *However* something that factors into what I purchase is that trash doesn't always end up in a traditional landfill!! Things get blown out of trash trucks, etc. Or they get towed around on barges .... ending up in the sea ... I *do* feel better buying biodegradable products, even though I know they won't really degrade until someone does something different than traditional landfills. I do it also to encourage that industry to become more profitable.

There is a ton of info on the 'net that will answer that question better than me, but specifically with regards to disposable diapers, the short answer is NO they do not, will not decompose in a landfill. What you didn't ask is: what's the alternative? And, in my opinion, the only plausible solution to this problem is to create less waste, not just pretend it's "better" because it's biodegradable. That's why we don't use disposable products in our home. Unfortunately, people like us are in the minority, and that's why the landfill industry is booming!

--janis
post #4 of 6
Quote:
I *do* feel better buying biodegradable products, even though I know they won't really degrade until someone does something different than traditional landfills.
While I think the OP's question is definitely cause for concern - so this is not to minimize that at all - I do at least feel that biodegradable products offer us more options for the future even if they aren't helping now. When we finally take waste seriously, I hope/assume that we can "fix" the problem much more easily with biodegradable stuff than non-.

Still, I think the ultimate goal for all of us is to reduce, then reuse, then recycle. And also recycling includes things like composting. It's a huge shame that good, organic material (food) is being completely wasted in a toxic pile rather than being returned to the earth in a way that will nourish it.
post #5 of 6
I just want to clarify that the reason for my previous post ("biodegradable stuff is still better that not") is that I'm tired of people finding problems with ecological living and just saying "hey, it doesn't biodegrade anyway, why bother?" Even if something is flawed, we all have responsibility to do the best we can. (And, yes, to improve the flaw as well)

ETA: Argh, I keep not explaining myself well. I don't think the OP is saying that we shouldn't bother! I just hope she'll address that point in her presentation so her classmates don't jump to that conclusion!
post #6 of 6
To OP's question - no, nothing will biodegrade in a landfill. I have spoken to the powers-that-be at our landfill and had the whole thing explained. Biodegradable garbage bags are a waste of money *if they are headed for the dump*. Nothing will ever break down in there. NOTHING.
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