Chapter 1: The Typical Junk Journey
Out of sight means out of mind, especially when it comes to our old junk.
Most people are unaware of where their junk goes, and only care that it’s no longer their problem. But junk’s destination is crucial because it impacts the surrounding communities and the environment.
But the end result is only one part of the puzzle. From start to finish, the entire lifecycle of a product impacts the environment in one way or another. It’s important to understand the amount of time and natural resources that go into a product’s creation, and how these products affect the environment.
Let’s dive deeper into the typical journey your junk takes, and how adding to landfills adds to the problem.
Every manufactured item takes a long time to get to you and uses up a ton of resources in the process.
Nothing puts a stop to frustrating repairs on an old appliance like getting a brand new one. Sleeker finishes and new features make your old appliance seem like an antique.
New appliances are also more energy efficient than their outdated counterparts. While this is a great way to reduce environmental impact, their backstory overshadows these eco-friendly tactics. There are a lot of resources wasted in production. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting an appliance on the showroom floor.
Let’s take a look at one of the most popular home appliances: the refrigerator. Do you know where your fridge comes from? Here’s a brief overview of how it’s manufactured and delivered to you:
- A company creates a design for a new refrigerator. They gather materials to make its different parts. These materials include sheet metal, plastic, tubing, wires, and insulation. All of these require time, natural resources, and human capital to create.
- The company assembles the refrigerator in a factory that affects the environment with air pollution and toxic waste. Manufacturing also requires a huge amount of water, accounting for around 6 percent of total water withdrawals in the United States.
- Manufacturers used to fill up the unit with freon (also known as a refrigerant) upon completion. Studies show that freon is an environmental concern because it destroys the ozone layer. Although freon isn’t used nowadays, it is still present in older refrigerator models. Companies currently use a wide range of hazardous chemicals to keep refrigerators operating at peak performance.
- The company distributes the refrigerator to locations around the world, using cargo ships to move these in bulk. Cargo ships run on bunker fuel, which is a large contributor to poor air quality and water pollution.
- Once it arrives at the shipping port, the refrigerator is delivered to your local hardware store on a truck, using more diesel fuel and further contributing to air pollution.
- When you buy it, another diesel-fuel truck delivers it to your home. To make matters worse, it’s wrapped in non-biodegradable plastic wrap.
So what happens to your old refrigerator when you get a new one? Many people just want it gone. This once-cherished item is now a piece of junk. And now you’re responsible for figuring out how to get rid of it.
Unlike boxes or trash bags full of miscellaneous junk, bigger items require unique disposal.
Things like TVs, refrigerators, mattresses, and large furniture don’t go out to the curb — they require special handling. You’re stuck with only a few options: try to sell them, load them in the car and drive to the dump, or call a junk removal company. The first two options are labor-intensive and time-consuming, so a junk removal company is your best bet.
Your typical junk removal companies will take these oversized items and load them into a dumpster or trailer before whisking them away, never to be seen again. Many of these companies make a beeline straight to the landfill because it’s the easiest option. They don’t have to invest extra resources to meet eco-friendly standards. Donating, recycling, and upcycling aren’t even on their radar.
The junk you get rid of goes on a road trip from cherished possession to landfill stuffing. A typical journey looks like this:
- You comb through your house or apartment to determine what needs to go.
- Then you have to make a decision: can I load the car up with everything, or will I need someone else to take this for me? Most people will call a junk removal company to save their own time and effort.
- Your average local junk removal company swings by and piles your junk into a truck, carelessly tossing your memories aside.
- They drive to the local landfill and drop off your junk without a second thought.
- Your junk sits in a landfill, where it either slowly breaks down over time or doesn’t break down at all.
Junk doesn’t magically disappear after it reaches the landfill. Here are some of the most common materials people throw away and the amount of time they take to decompose:
- Plastic bottles: 450 years
- Plastic bags: 10-1,000 years
- Glass: not biodegradable
- Aluminum cans: 200-250 years
- Cigarette butts: 10-12 years
- Batteries: 100 years
- Styrofoam: not biodegradable
- Tinfoil: not biodegradable
This short list doesn’t account for many other man-made items that take generations to break down — or never break down at all.
Credit: US Airforce
It’s probably easier and more cost-effective to use landfills, but they bring us closer to capacity and destroy our environment. We believe there are better ways to say goodbye to your junk: donating, recycling, and upcycling.
Our junk removal company has always focused on green practices (our CEO self-identifies as something of a “tree hugger”) and we carry these ideals over to junk removal. Donating, recycling, and upcycling go hand-in-hand when it comes to caring for the environment.
We carefully remove junk, then sort it in the truck to determine what can be donated to our charity partners. From furniture to mattresses to e-waste, we sort all of the items immediately to be more efficient. It allows us to drop off any items at donation centers while on our route. And if we are able to donate any of your items, we’ll give you a tax-deductible receipt within 14 business days.
Whatever can’t be donated is then recycled or repurposed. We’re working hard toward our ultimate goal of keeping everything we collect out of landfills by 2025.
We see options beyond landfills. But disposing of everything in a landfill has become so common that most people don’t consider anything else. There are actually many other environmentally friendly options out there. We need to elevate the alternatives.
In the next chapter, we’ll go in-depth on landfills, discussing what landfills are, how to build and maintain them, and the alternatives to using them for our junk.