The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
Every day, people open packages or drink a beverage, simple activities that generate waste in the form of paper, cardboard, glass or metal. At one time those and other kinds of waste simply went into household garbage and ended up in the landfill. But that has changed. Many people have incorporated the 3-R's; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle into their lives by using the recycling programs currently offered around the province. That's had a huge impact on the amount of material going into landfills. For example, since 1988 SARCAN, the recycling division of the Saskatchewan Association of Rehabilitation Centres, has recycled over 124 million kilograms of beverage containers and paid out more than $259 million dollars in deposit refunds. The amount of toxic waste such as waste oil, filters, paint, solvents and pesticide containers heading into the province's landfills is also dropping. Recycling means 75 per cent of all used oil, nearly 80 per cent of all oil filters and nearly 75 per cent of used tires are being recycled every year. Greg Hallsworth of Saskatchewan Environment says other aspects of the province's landfills have also changed. "More and more communities are cooperating by closing their small, local landfills and building and running regional landfills," says Hallsworth. "Regional landfills are more efficient because the waste is collected and hauled to one site and they cost less to operate than several smaller landfills. They also lend themselves to recycling programs that many communities couldn't afford to run. Another benefit of this changing approach is that fewer and fewer landfills are being burned in an attempt to reduce the amount of material in them." Fire used to be a common method of attempting to reduce the amount of material in a landfill. But landfill fires usually burn at a very low temperature and result in a lot of toxins, ranging from particles to gases, being released into the atmosphere. They also often resulted in complaints from neighbours who didn't like the smell and were worried about their health. Many people also believed that burning would reduce the number of rats in a landfill, but studies showed fire actually had the opposite effect. During a fire the rats simply dug deeper into the material in the landfill and when the fire burned out they moved into the newly opened areas, which often also had more food for them. The smell of burning garbage was also known to actually attract rats from the surrounding area. "Fortunately there are fewer landfill fires in the province every year," says Hallsworth. "This is good for pest control and for reducing the amount of pollution that goes into the atmosphere, which leads to a healthier province for all of us. This is a case where people have become more environmentally aware and active with the big winner being the environment." It is now also illegal to deliberately set a landfill on fire, however landfill operators may be able to get a permit to burn clean wood.