That’s a lot of Garbage
In 2007, Americans produced 258 million tons of garbage, enough to fill a train stretching from New York City to Los Angeles 1,500 times. Despite our best efforts to recycle as much as possible, nearly 70 percent of that waste ends up in landfills or incinerators where it decomposes and releases greenhouse gases. It’s downright scary – but can we just continue doing this; as long as our landfills can handle it – everything should be ok for generations right?
It really boils down to where you live; some areas of the country are going to have space in their landfills for decades but some will only have about 5-10 years of space left. At the holistic level, it’s going to take from 50-60 years for the majority to be full. The North East landfills are fuller than the West Coast ones. This sounds like we have a major trash problem.
The Real Problem
Technically we could just create more landfills; although it’s time consuming and expensive (it’s not just a large area to dump; there are other items that need to be build within such as drainage systems, walls to retain the trash, etc) in addition to having to clear out a large area (another major environmental impact).
This doesn’t really solve the underlying issue; and that’s the fact that we have a major trash problem. It’s not just the sheer volume of trash either; trash ending up in landfills creates a release of methane gases via trash decomposing. And we’ve all heard about methane gas, it causes major environmental issues; namely the fact that it absorbs the sun’s heat and makes the Earth hotter.
What to Do About our Trash Problem
It’s not an easy problem to solve; we live in a throw away society, and it’s hard to distance ourselves from that. Think about just the trash you generated this week: coffee out, unnecessary plastic bags at a takeout restaurant, cleaning out your closet, the catered lunch your office treated you to – this list goes on and on. But there are some simple things we can do – and at this point every one and every step does count:
- Recycle – avoiding throwing away something that could have been recycled is important. Plastics are especially bad to throw out when they could have been recycled.
- Composting – any item avoiding the landfill is a win. Composting reduces methane significantly compared to a landfill. See Benefits of Composting