18 February 2010

Suspicious Statistics

I read an article a while back (The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies) that brought something to light I had always known but never really thought about. Companies make claims all the time, without any of us really expecting them to mean anything. So often you see billboards that say things like “best beer ever” or “#1 in the US”, which, if you look at the products being advertised, seems very unlikely. But no one is fussed by this, it’s just the way things are. Companies can make all kinds of claims and no one questions them or pays much attention to them.

As I was driving into work this morning, I passed a Waste Management truck. Waste Management does all sorts of things, but mostly they haul trash and other waste away from businesses and towns and that sort of thing. The side of this particular truck said, “Our landfills provide 17,000 acres of wildlife habitat.” Or something very close to that, I was driving rather fast.

Now, this kind of baffled me. Landfills… wildlife habitat?

Sorry, that was a pause while I attempted to make sense of that. I looked it up on the Waste Management website (Waste Management Wildlife Habitat Council), and apparently what they mean is that after landfills are full, they cover them over and plant things on top. I’ve seen covered landfills, but usually they just have grass on top, due to the fact that there are vents all over it to let the methane out. The smell is usually pretty horrendous. Sometimes I think they build schools on top and that sort of thing. Apparently now they’re building wildlife habitat, which is all well and good, we could use more wildlife habitat. It’s the landfill bit that’s got me a little perplexed. Somehow it just doesn’t seem like a great idea.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use landfills for SOMETHING. And wildlife habitat seems to be a better suggestion than most. I’m glad Waste Management is concerned about wildlife habitat. I’m just suspicious when I see messages purporting that a company is environmentally friendly on the side of a truck hauling trash. Their whole company is founded on hauling waste- they are (to my knowledge) the largest such company in the US. And I, personally, do not believe we should be producing all this waste, no matter how much wildlife habitat we build on top of it. I’d rather have the wildlife habitat intact in the first place, thanks ever so much.

But I suppose it’s technically not Waste Management’s responsibility to reduce the amount of waste produced- all they do is haul it after it’s been created. But, I have to ask, if it’s not their responsibility, whose is it?

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