Grist: Landfills’ methane and solar panels

Note: featured image ChatGPT generated by Bing

Grist published two articles this week that caught my attention, and both are related to humans’ propensity to create tons and tons of waste without first comprehending the unintended consequences of that waste. Unfortunately, our grandchildren will not be able to say, ‘poor planning on your part is not an emergency for me’. I fear that our poor planning (haste to consume?) has already created emergencies for them. Both issues hit Oregon, without question.

Methane and landfills

First, methane gas is being released from landfills in WA and OR that should scare us – especially those people living near them. Corvallis is one of the worst examples used. Quote:

Although the Clean Air Act requires that large landfills operators keep methane concentrations below 500 parts per million, Environmental Protection Agency inspection reports from May and June 2022 show that this threshold was exceeded in dozens of readings taken at four landfills in Oregon and Washington. At one landfill near Corvallis, Oregon, there were so many exceedances that an inspector ran out of flags to mark them with. At another, the inspector’s measuring instruments maxed out, indicating what he described as “explosive” concentrations of methane.

The article closes with the obvious, but almost NEVER discussed. Quote:

Perhaps the most effective way to address landfill methane emissions is to stop them from being created in the first place — and that means keeping organic material out of landfills, for example, by reducing food waste or diverting it to municipal composting programs. According to one estimate, sorting and treating organics separately from other trash can reduce landfill methane emissions by 62 percent

Solar Panels

In our haste to produce lower carbon sources of sustainable energy, what we do with the components (especially panels) is not being addressed. US Govt is investing to solve the problem (a piddly $20m), but here’s the crux. Quote:

“That’s called wish-cycling,” he said. “Because the market will drive to the cheapest option, which is going to be landfilling. We have had many conversations with larger energy providers who say, ‘We’ll do the right thing.’ And we say, ‘What is the right thing? And when it really happens, will you do it?’ And then we get no response. Because people are not going to do anything that they do not have to do.”

Of course there’s a recommendation: “Solar is great, she said, but what if the industry created a new design that didn’t end up in landfills? Or didn’t need so much mining for materials? Or could end up recycled as new panels?”

Or, just simply, better planning for the full lifecycle of the parts. Poor planning on our part is creating emergencies for our grandchildren. Educating ourselves about the best practices today for a better tomorrow is a great starting point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *