Waste not, pollute not

my waste 0.208kg jan1-16
This is what I sent to the landfill after the first two weeks of 2016, total weight 0.208kg. I keep packaging flat because it takes up less space in my room, in the truck, and in the landfill

LAST year I sent 5.1 kilograms to the local landfill which is 100 kilometers away. That’s right, 5.1kg (not 51) and 100km (not 10.0). The numbers may surprise you.

First of all I should acknowledge that what I send to the landfill is only a part of my waste stream. It doesn’t include recycling paper, cardboard, glass, metal things and recyclable plastics. Nor does it include ‘wet’ waste (food scraps).

So, my figure of 5.1 kg for the 12 months of 2015 is dry waste only, by which I mean empty cartons, cling wrap, used face masks, food packaging, razor blades, toothpaste tubes and so forth.

What does this have to do with my carbon footprint?

It’s not just the amount of waste I send to the landfill, it’s the distance it has to travel. If the Chiang Mai landfill was just around the corner, it would be bad enough; but my waste has to travel around the city in the back of a 32-tonne-truck, and then, when it’s full, to a landfill in Hod District, 100 km south of the city *.

Garbage collection is a very unfriendly activity in environmental terms. Damage to human health from tailpipe emissions, damage to road surfaces, and above all the CO₂ emissions from the truck’s engine mean that the more I send to the landfill, the higher my carbon footprint and the greater my overall impact on the environment.

Although it’s a little time-consuming, figuring out how much CO₂ my 5.1kg of dry-waste causes is not difficult. We multiply the mass (5.1kg) by the distance (100km) and feed the figure (5,100) into a life-cycle-analysis program such as SimPro.

The average American sends 1.3kg of waste to landfills per day, so I’m not losing sleep over my 5.1kg per year. But I don’t want to get complacent. Bea Johnson [see my blogroll], and her family of four, generate far less trash than I do.

* http://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/citylife-articles/dirty-litter-secrets-chiang-mais-garbage-problem/


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