The U.S. produces more than 250 million tons of solid waste each year. Only about a quarter of that trash is recovered for recycling. For the rest of that trash, which is better for human health and the environment: burning or burying?
Today’s landfills are different than the old trash dumps of yesteryear. A modern landfill is engineered to capture runoff and protect groundwater, while the methane gas produced by natural decomposition is often captured for energy production.
Today’s trash is also different than the trash of yesteryear. Plastics, Styrofoam, and heavy metals are common in typical household trash today. Burning these materials releases a flood of toxic chemicals and particulate matter into the air we breathe. The ashes that remain contain concentrated levels of hazardous substances.
Backyard trash burning isn’t just bad for the air. Burning produces toxic compounds like dioxins and furans, which quickly settle onto the ground and enter our food chain.
Backyard trash burning is so bad for human health that Kentucky and other states restrict this practice. Do you know what’s legal to open burn in Kentucky? Test your knowledge by taking this quick quiz.
Courtesy of Roberta Burnes, Policy Analyst III, and all the dedicated folks at Kentucky Division of Air Quality