When Landfills Overflow. When there is No Away

Thursday, September 22, 2011 9:49

When working with my students on the issues of sustainability, one of the fundamental facts that I am trying to impress upon them is that ultimately there is no “away”. That ultimately, the wastes that we are creating through the economic models we have developed will at some point grow so large that they cannot be ignored.

The above picture is a testimony to that very fact.

Taken in the city of Wenling, this 100m long strip of trash (3 meters) deep is the result of a waste management process whose entire foundation was built on away. That cities who create too much trash for their own system can simply dump it onto others who have available space.

Today, that system failed, and when it did the city of Wenzhou had to live with the consequences of this failed “system”.

So, as I would ask my students, what should be the next steps? What is the SOLUTION to the problem, and (if you were a government official) what would you do to (1) clean up this mess and (2) make sure this mess never hit your street again?

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