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Why is rubbish a problem?

The amount of waste produced in this country is a clear sign that our economy is environmentally unsustainable. 61% of our municipal rubbish (from streets, businesses and households) still ends up in landfill, which means we are literally using up and throwing away the earth's natural resources. Many of these resources are renewed by nature over time but if we continue to use them up faster than they are replenished, eventually there'll be none left. Many plastics, for example, need quantities of oil to produce them - what will happen when the oil runs out? Living within the limits of the earth's natural systems will mean using less and being more efficient.

What's so bad about burying our rubbish?

Landfilling waste is bad for the environment for the following reasons: A) Materials that have gone to landfill cannot be used again and cannot enter the recycling loop. Therefore more virgin resources are mined and processed. B) As the waste decomposes, it produces two dangerous substances: Methane and Leachate. Methane gas contributes to the greenhouse effect causing climate change and modern licensed landfills are required to collect and flare this gas. Landfill leachate is liquid that moves through our drains from a landfill. This liquid may already be present in a landfill, or it may be created after rainwater mixes with the chemical waste. Leachate, which can be highly toxic, can seep from older landfills into our water supply causing pollution, however, modern landfills collect and treat this leachate in water treatment plants. C) It uses up land that could be used for something else or that could just be left as a natural habitat. D) Rubbish from cities is often transported many miles by large lorries burning lots of fuel and creating more pollution..

What is the difference between incineration and backyard burning?

In terms of their environmental emissions, there are several major differences between incineration and backyard burning. These main differences are: A) Control - There is no control on the types of waste, the amount of waste, the temperature of the fire or the pollution emissions from backyard fires. The burning process in a licensed incinerator is high enough to destroy chemicals such as dioxins, and then rapid cooling prevents their reformation. In addition, emissions are scrubbed and filtered to control air pollution. In contrast to this, the lower temperatures of backyard fires are perfect for the production of dioxins and other chemicals of concern. B) Energy Recovery - There is no potential for energy recovery from backyard burning whereas the energy that comes from incineration can provide us with electricity. C) Dioxins - Over the past decade, government and industry have worked to dramatically reduce dioxin emissions. Dioxin levels in Northern Ireland and the UK have been declining for the last 30 years due to reductions in manmade sources. However, because dioxins are extremely persistent compounds, even if all current human-generated dioxins could somehow be eliminated, low levels of naturally produced dioxins and the ‘reservoir’ of dioxins created from natural events and industrial activities in the past will remain. We must do all we can to keep minimising these dioxin emissions for future generations.

Where can I find information on bin and waste collection for my home?

Your local council is responsible for the collection and disposal of waste in your area. You can find out more information about getting a bin and recycling by using this information.

Is recycling the answer?

It's really only part of it. Cutting down on the rubbish we create is always the first option. Recycling means making something new from something old - for example, drinking glasses from recycled bottles. Although the recycling process uses energy and water it usually isn't as much as making a product from scratch. Recycling also cuts down on raw materials having to be extracted from the earth's resources.

I'm already recycling. What more should I do?

If you are already recycling, encourage your family, friends and work colleagues to do so. Think about reducing the overall amount of rubbish you produce each week - this is really the first step to conquering our waste problem.