Last night instead of watching my usual HGTV or TLC, I got caught up in a show on The History Channel called The Works. The title of the show was “Garbage”. “Garbage” centered around a New York City landfill and described how landfills are made, how they are filled, and how they are used after they are capped off.
I had no idea landfills were so fascinating and disgusting at the same time.
It was most depressing when they showed the tons of plastics that are disposed of daily. Just in terms of plastic wrap, we use enough every year to shrink-wrap the state of Texas. Plastics also make up the majority of disposable diapers.
To manufacture the amount of disposable diapers to cover 90 percent of the babies born in the U.S. It takes upwards of 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, or a quarter-million trees! For a more tangible statistic, it takes one whole cup of crude oil to manufacture the plastics used in one single-use diaper.
According to a Mothering Magazine article(Issue 88, May/June 1998), 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown into landfills every year and estimates show it could take around 500 years for decomposition to occur. The Works host explained the reason for this estimate being plastics have only been around for about 100 years. They really have no idea if it will take 500 or 1500 years.
Once in a landfill, plastic will never fully decompose. Over time it goes through a process of photo degradation and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. These substances cannot be converted by any known organisms and as such remain as plastic in landfills, rivers and oceans.
Seeing as we (cloth diapering families) are just a mere 10% of the U.S. population, we have a big responsibility. We may not be making a huge dent in the landfills by using cloth diapers; but the more exposure cloth diapers get and the more we spread the word locally the bigger the impact we can have.