Caring for Earth
A Mountain of Garbage

A Mountain of Garbage
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.45

     challenging words:    combusted, incinerator, sanitary, sludge, decompose, disposal, biodegradable, scrubbing, compacted, sewage, burning, municipal, currently, volume, compost, landfill
     content words:    United States, Use Me Reuse Me

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A Mountain of Garbage
By Trista L. Pollard

1     "Two hundred eight million, two hundred nine million, two hundred ten million...." That is the sound of solid waste hitting the bottom of garbage cans all over the United States in 1996. Solid wastes are materials that are discarded or thrown away after use by consumers and businesses. This does not include fluid materials. During that year, Americans threw away 210 million tons (about 4.3 pounds/2 kilograms per person daily) of garbage. We threw away 12.4 million tons of glass and about 80 million tons of paper products. Americans also threw away large amounts (in tons) of food scraps, yard wastes, plastics, sludge from sewage treatment plants, and other materials. That is almost a mountain of garbage!
2     Even though we make an effort to recycle and compost our solid waste, the amount of waste keeps increasing each year. Our biggest problem is where to put the solid waste and how to keep it from polluting our environment. If solid waste is disposed of incorrectly, it can contaminate our surface and underground water supplies. Currently, our municipal waste or waste collected by our cities and towns, goes to landfills. Today, about 85% of our garbage goes to landfills or garbage dumps. This waste must be treated to keep rats, flies, and other animals from building their homes in the landfill. The treatment also prevents the growth of bacteria and other organisms that carry diseases. So, how do we handle this mountain of garbage? Scientists have come up with different methods for handling our waste problem.
3     One type of waste disposal called sanitary landfill was first used in Fresno, California, in 1937. In sanitary landfills, the solid waste is spread in thin layers that are compacted and covered with a layer of earth. This is a more expensive method, but it takes away the health hazards that are caused by landfills. It also allows the land to be used for building or recreation. The negative part about these landfills is that it is tough to find open land and this process is very expensive. The land also needs have its water sources protected so that the waste will not pollute the water supply. Landfills (open dumps) and sanitary landfills rely on the natural biodegradability of the solid wastes. Solid wastes are biodegradable if they can decay or break down through the action of living organisms and return to the earth. However, certain materials take longer to decay than others, and some materials do not decay or decompose at all. Scientists needed to search for other methods of waste disposal. Incineration and recycling are two methods that are currently in use today.

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