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Re: E-M:/ Recycling statistics

Enviro-Mich message from "Matthew Flechter" <FLECHTEM@state.mi.us>

The question of specific degradation time for materials in landfills is a difficult one to answer.  Landfills today are designed as dry, sealed tombs, essentially preventing any decomposition.  Theoretically, the materials in landfills would last forever but as liners and caps fail, moisture enters and decomposition resumes.  Another problem with coming up with decomposition rates in landfills is the difficulty of data collection. No one had the foresight fifty or so years ago to catagorize material entering the landfill and monitor moisture and temperature levels.  The now famous Dr. William Rathje has conducted archeological examinations of landfills working with "The Garbage Project" and found legible newspapers up to 40 years old.  But, as landfill liner and cap technology improves one can expect slower and slower decomposition rates.  So the key is...don't put it there in the first place.  Why would you want decomposition rates of readily recyclable materials such as bottles, cans, and newspapers.  We should be working to keep these items out of landfills so that future generations don't need to mine our present day landfills for our wasted resources.  

Matt Flechter
Recycling and Composting Coordinator
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Waste Management Division
1st Floor Hannah Building
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Phone: (517) 373-8422
Fax:      (517) 373-4797
Email: flechtem@state.mi.us

>>> <BRITTCHRISTIE@aol.com> 05/16/01 12:57PM >>>
I work for General Motors an were interesting in knowing how long certain 
items take to decompose in our local landfills (bottles, cans newspapers 
ect).  Is there someone out there that has these stats so we can educated our 


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