Backyard Trash Burning Dangers

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http://myairdistrict.com/index.php/burning-info/open-burning/

If your method of waste disposal is burning, it’s time to rethink those practices. Not only are you exposing yourself to pollutants, you are also putting family and neighbors at risk. Children, the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially vulnerable. Those airborne toxins also contaminate our environment and food sources.

Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), backyard burning produces significant quantities of dioxin, a major health concern. Dioxins are formed when the combination of carbon and trace amounts of chlorine are burned. Even when plastics are removed, dioxins are still created because nearly all household wastes contain trace amounts of chlorine. Through burning, dioxins are released into the air settling on plants. Plants are eaten by animals and dioxin settles in their fatty tissue; those toxins are then transferred to us when we eat meat and dairy products. Dioxin also settles on our soils and waterways contaminating the fish we consume. Dioxins can alter the cells resulting in “adverse effects upon reproduction and development, suppression of the immune system, disruption of hormonal systems, and cancer.”

The EPA classifies dioxins as “persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants (PBTs). PBTs are highly toxic, long-lasting substances that can build up in the food chain to levels that are harmful to human and ecosystem health. Persistent means they remain in the environment for extended periods of time. Bioaccumulative means their concentration levels increase as they move up the food chain.”

In addition to dioxin, backyard burning creates other pollutants including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hexachlorobenzene. The EPA reports these pollutants can have immediate and long-term health effects including cancer, respiratory illnesses, and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.  Remaining ash residues contaminate vegetables when scattered in gardens.

These practices also pollute the environment with toxic compounds including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and particle pollution. These compounds contribute to acid rain, greenhouse gases, global warming, ozone depletion, and the formation of smog.

Then what do we do with all this trash? For starters, when we practice the RRR principals, we create less waste.

Reduce –Use durable, long-lasting goods, avoid disposable single-use items, and purchase products with less packaging.

Reuse – Repair, sell, share, and donate; Compost –Yard trimmings and food scraps create natural fertilizer

Recycle – If it can’t be reused, recycle through Boonslick Industries.

Waste Disposal – Don’t litter or dump illegally. Take your waste to a transfer station or purchase a waste collection service.

With these practices, our bodies and the Earth will be healthier and happier!

backyard-2
http://ecoevolution.ie/blog/burning-of-waste/

 

 

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Styrofoam Be Gone!

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http://thebadinogden.blogspot.com/2005/09/garbage-at-beus-pond.html

Summer is finally here –time for picnics!  I can buy 170 Styrofoam plates for just $3.97.  What a bargain!  Or not.  Time to “Pause”.

In 1937, Dow Chemical introduced Styrofoam to the US, an expanded polystyrene foam petroleum based product.  A 1986 an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Report named the process of creating polystyrene as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.  In 2000 the EPA determined styrene as a possible human carcinogen.

Many sources report, by volume Styrofoam uses 25-30 percent of the landfill space.  Once there, it never decomposes, breaking down into smaller pieces.  The wind carries these particles and other Styrofoam litter throughout the environment and into our waterways.  Styrofoam is disastrous for animals, birds, and marine life as they mistaken these toxic particles for food, choking them and clogging their digestive systems.  As Styrofoam accumulates, it also puts our health at risk when we eat fish.

Styrofoam is commonly used for egg cartons, beverage cups, plates, bowls, produce/meat trays, take-out food and packaging peanuts.  The Sierra Club reports each year Americans throw away 2.5 billion  Styrofoam coffee cups every year, enough to circle the earth 436 times – just One Styrofoam product!

While technology for recycling polystyrenes is available, the melt-down process is toxic, the market is very small, it is not cost effective and not available locally.

Progress is being made.  Some entities are outlawing polystyrene foam (Taiwan, Portland, New York City and several cities in California).  Scientists are developing alternatives.  Bagasse take-out containers made of crushed stalks of sugar cane and sturdy paper boxes are now available.

How can you help? Use your Consumer Purchasing Power and stop buying it and help me educate store and restaurant managers and your friends!  Instead of Styrofoam coffee cups, use reusable mugs or paper insulated cups.  Instead of Styrofoam plates and bowls, use reusable dishware, or paper plates.   Give UPS Styrofoam peanuts to reuse; instead use shredded newspaper or real popcorn.    Don’t buy take-out food unless they use bagasse, paper boxes/bags or aluminum foil – better yet, bring your own container.  Take your Styrofoam egg cartons to the Farmer’s Market for reuse and grab some goodies.  Avoid produce packaged in Styrofoam trays!  Throw big Styrofoam packaging blocks into your attic for insulation.  Event Organizers – Use paper insulated cups, #1 plastic cups (recyclable) & fiber or bagasse clamshells, paper bags or aluminum foil.  And pick up Styrofoam litter so it doesn’t have a chance to break-down and wreak havoc!  We need to tackle this menace!

 

10-5-13 Sugar Creek MRR effot
Styrofoam mess cleaned up on Sugar Creek, MO during event hosted by Missouri River Relief 2014

Imagine Zero Waste

Seems we are always encouraged to consume.   Things wear out quicker, styles constantly change and single use and disposable items are heavily marketed.   As I see our population increase and hungrily consume at such a rapid pace, I wonder what will be left for future generations.  Capitalism is based on consumption, so how can we keep consuming without running out of resources?  How about consuming waste?  We have plenty of that!  Imagine Zero Waste.

Zero waste isn’t a new concept.  The movement gained momentum 1998-2002. Visionaries are busy researching how to put theory into action.  This concept is thoroughly explored by William McDonough & Michael Braungart in “Cradle to Cradle” and “The Upcycle”.  They say “waste is simply poor design”.

While Industry has improved our lives making it cleaner and more convenient, its infrastructure is linear – they make the product, get it to us as quickly & cheaply as possible, rely on an endless supply of resources, rely on us consuming; then waste pollutes our environment, goes into landfills and their potential is lost.

When we are “eco-efficient”, we consume less and recycle.  While these strategies save our natural resources, the mindset is based on scarcity and guilt with the environment and industry pitted against each other.  With an “eco-effective” model, industry and the environment work together and eliminate waste by design.  We become a world of abundance!

For this to work, first we need to eliminate some synthetics that are too toxic to reuse.  Then we can use and reuse biological and technical products. Biological – Imagine if packaging (50% of our solid waste) was designed as a nutrient that enhanced the soil and factory water byproducts were clean enough to drink.  Technical cycle – Imagine instead of buying products, we purchased the service of a product.  When finished, the manufacturer would replace it, and reuse the material from the old product.  We can indulge guilt-free, industry saves money by reusing valuable materials and uses less raw materials.  These same concepts can be applied to urban planning, buildings, food production, energy and transportation systems.

The authors see the first critical steps as rebuilding our soil, converting to renewable energy, and to stop introducing unknown chemicals and materials.  We have the technology and intellectual capacity to accomplish this!  With visionaries like these, ecological and economic sustainability is possible.  That’s encouraging!  But for now, we’ll Reduce, Reuse & Recycle!