Lyon County recycling education coordinator
I'll take Things That Are NOT Good for the Environment for $500 Alex." "This practice pollutes air, water and soil." "What does burning trash or other unwanted materials in a burn pit/barrel do?" This is straying off the topic of recycling but as has been mentioned before it isn't the only solution for the environmental issues we're facing, albeit it plays a huge role in environmental care so we need to continue recycling and encouraging others to do the same. Anyway, one reason I decided on this topic was an article I came across in my files the other day titled, "Home Burning of Plastics and Waste - Dangerous Health Effects." Another reason is because of the fact that on more than one occasion when I've been driving between towns I've seen the tell-tale sign of someone burning tires/other prohibited materials. You knowthat nasty black, acrid smoke that many of us used to think just drifted off into the far reaches of space and really didn't have any effect on anything. Well, now we know better. The nasty stuff may seem to disappear but in reality, for lack of better words, it just changes locations It's still out there somewhere. And, not only are there toxins created from burning tires/other prohibited materials but from burning household trash, too. The smoke not only contains things like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides but the fine particles - soot as many of us refer to it - contain dioxin which is a potent carcinogen, an endocrine disrupter and can cause reproductive, developmental and immunological problems in humans and animals.
Just think about it - when that stuff lands on the fields/pastures and into bodies of water and then say the cows eating the grains/grass and drinking the water get the stuff into their system which then concentrates in their meat and/or milk and then our kids/we enjoy a nice cold glass of milk or a juicy steak where then would some of those nasty dioxins be ending up? You got it - in our systems. Not good, especially for pregnant women, children and the elderly! Oh, unfortunately there are smaller amounts of more poisonous chemicals commonly detected in the smoke, too. Stuff like: benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. Household burn barrels, fire pits, wood stoves, or similar homemade devices produce low-temperature fires. They receive very little oxygen and produce a lot of smoke and as such the above listed toxins are created. When one thinks about it, burning trash doesn't sound like a very healthy thing to do.
Recycling all items that are acceptable in the program, avoiding/limiting use of disposable items/items, selecting products with the least wasteful packaging, buying/selling/donating unwanted but usable items and composting food scraps (which I need to start doing) definitely reduces the amount of trash that needs to be disposed of. That's a good thing whether we have trashed picked up by a garbage service or we bring it to the landfill ourselves. For rural folks who burn household trash an alternative might be to bring it to the landfill. The fee is pretty minimal. $6.44 is the minimum charge but that's for up to 250 pounds worth.
Until next time, keep reducing, reusing, recycling and buying recycled! For more info or if your club is interested in a presentation (free) regarding recycling/waste reduction and household hazardous waste disposal, call the Lyon County Environmental Office at 532-8210. www.lyonco.org - click on environmental in the menu.