J500 Media and the Environment

The Rotten Truth by Sarah
May 6, 2008, 6:47 am
Filed under: Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , , ,

In 1960, the United States produced 88 million tons of trash a year.  Today, we are producing 245 million.  Where it is ending up?  You guessed it, landfills.

It’s pretty obvious to most that we are a nation full of material things.  As Americans, all we want is more more more – but what happened to the recycling bandwagon that emerged in the 90’s and the thoughts of “going green?”  Despite the new green trends and efforts to improve sustainability, the trash is still piling up in landfills, and garbage does not lie folks.  We are still throwing away perfectly good materials that could either be, you guessed it:  Re-used or Rec-ycled. 

Here’s another disturbing fact for you.  In 1960, when no one had the option to recycle, each person only generated 2.7 pounds of waste per day.  Today, although Americans recycle more than ever, we also generate a disturbingly high amount of waste: 4.5 pounds per day.

Landfill limo.

Photo:  *Raffella, Flickr

So, what exactly is in our landfills?   According to the EPA, it separates our waste into two categories: product-related wastes and non-product wastes.  Product-related wastes are all the durable goods we use (appliances, furniture, books – anything that lasts over five years), non-durable goods (newspapers, disposable diapers – anything that lasts less than five years), and packaging. The non-product waste materials are food scraps, yard trimmings and miscellaneous waste. 

Paper accounts for the biggest portion of waste ending up in our landfills, at around forty percent.  The two runners-up are construction waste and yard trimmings.

The question of when our landfills are going to fill up is one that is under debate.  Georgia currently has a landfill that is almost at capacity, and Europe has a couple that have less than ten years left.  No matter what people are saying, it is inevitable. 

We need to start practicing what we were taught in kindergarten folks-reduce, reuse, and most importantly, recycle.  Otherwise, instead of hearing about landfills, we will all be living in one.

-Sarah Nelson





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