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Name: Amy E Bison
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What procedures are used to ensure that garbage and other materials decompose at the proper rates?

In a word, aeration. Decomposition is enhanced by exposure to oxygen. If you are composting lawn litter for your garden, it helps to turn the heap over with a pitchfork once in a while. In large commercial land-fill garbage pits, garbage is piled up deep and packed down with almost no aeration at all. The result is that the garbage decomposes only very slowly, if at all. You can excavate these pits years later and find mummified food waste in its original condition. Since it is too expensive (and smelly) to aerate garbage pits, the garbage is preserved for a long time. Some landfill operators may have adopted new techniques in recent years that insure faster decomposition, but I do not know what the current state of the art is. Try contacting public relations at WMX Technologies (Waste Management Inc.) or Browning Ferris - two large commercial operators. Or research landfill operations in your library.


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