Ah, the glamorous life of a business magazine reporter. I recently spent a gloriously sunny day in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area touring a landfill, a waste-to-energy plant and a materials recovery facility, all in the interest of seeing what happens to our garbage after we throw it away. This trash tour, courtesy of Waste Management, the nation’s biggest solid refuse company, is the topic of today’s Sustainability column.
This is not, I hasten to add, an analytical story about the garbage industry, but an account of what I saw. One thing I learned from my tour is that the economics of the garbage business are very complicated, and they resist easy generalizations; each system operates a little differently. I did come away more convinced than ever that companies that create garbage, especially with needless packaging (i.e., every consumer-oriented company), retailers like Wal-Mart (which has a long-term zero waste goal), haulers like Waste Management, local governments and all of us need to work a lot harder than to reduce waste.
Enough editorializing. Here’s how the column begins:
Most people who travel to Florida in winter visit the beach or Disney World. I spent a day looking at garbage.
Have you noticed that Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste disposal company, has adopted “Think Green” as its slogan? The $14-billion-a-year firm gave me a guided tour of a landfill, a waste-to-energy plant and a recycling facility to learn more about “Think Green” – and so I could see for myself what happens to our garbage when we throw it away.
There’s no such place as “away,” of course. Although big-city waste is sometimes trucked hundreds of miles to its final resting place in an out-of-the-way locale, all garbage ends up somewhere. Here’s a report on my trash tour:
You can read the rest here.