Everyone knows that biodegradable products are the best for the environment, and just because they disintegrate quickly they aren’t a threat to anything… it seems not. Not that non-biodegradable materials are any better, but a recent study from North Carolina State University says biodegradable products are responsible for high methane emissions, a gas whose greenhouse effects are much more potent than those of CO2.
About 35% of the landfills in the U.S. capture and use that methane for producing energy, 34 percent capture and burn it, and the rest of 31 percent let it flow freely into the atmosphere.
Dr. Morton Barlaz and James Levis, the study authors, say government regulations don’t impose strict rules as to when landfill owners should capture the methane. Current laws allow them to keep biodegradable products for up to two years, which is way more than they need to disintegrate. By that time, most of the methane coming from the biodegradable trash is already out there.
Ok, nothing frustrating and non-understandable so far. What I don’t understand is the solution given by the authors. They suggest that one should genetically modify existing organic products so they disintegrate slower to fit within the government-approved term. “If we want to maximize the environmental benefit of biodegradable products in landfills,” Barlaz says, “we need to both expand methane collection at landfills and design these products to degrade more slowly – in contrast to FTC guidance.”
Now this is truly frustrating and absurd. Why should we modify natural products, as if they aren’t already modified enough so satisfy taste, preservation and color standards? Why can’t the law be modified, rather than changing the plants’ DNA?
There’s always a tradeoff between how much we consume, our own comfort and the pollution we leave behind. Either way we seem to approach the issue, either by eating vegetables or meat, our rise in consumption will ultimately lead to more emissions. That’s my conclusion, and I know it’s not an optimistic one.