Legacy of Waste

A Legacy of Waste: Trash By the Numbers

The world has a serious trash problem. The amount of garbage being produced annually by individuals in the United States – as well as people across the globe – is astonishing. Members of countless households from the last several generations have grown accustomed to living a consumeristic lifestyle. This societal paradigm has long been accompanied by a high value placed on convenience and easy disposal, rendering conservation and individual responsibility to the environment as afterthoughts rather than vital concepts.

The paradigm is beginning to shift due to growing necessity; solutions are being implemented to combat the daunting volume of trash in our overflowing landfills. Much more will need to be done in order to quell the legacy of waste we have created.

Statistics Speak Volumes

Just how alarming is the trash disposal issue in the U.S.? Consider the following numbers provided by the Mother Nature Network (based on government and university research) regarding waste disposal in the United States, alone:

  • The average person in the U.S. produces 4.4 pounds of trash on a daily basis.
  • An average American produces 1,600 pounds of trash per year.
  • 60,000 plastic bags are used every five seconds in the United States.
  • All of that plastic bag consumption adds up to a billion bags per year in the U.S.
  • Annually, plastic bags contribute to 30,000 tons of landfill waste in America.

Given these and other statistics, it appears that the amount of garbage in the U.S. is growing at a dizzying rate.

In fact, the output of garbage has increased annually since 1960, from 88 million tons to more than a quarter billion tons now. The landfills are literally overflowing with trash; more trash is currently being stuffed into the existing landfills than the capacity for which they were designed. The results? All of this excessive trash disposal is creating a need for more landfills on a planet that simply doesn’t have room for more garbage and landfills. The existing trash has already led to the dangerous production of methane gas in various areas; methane gas presents a far greater danger than carbon dioxide.

Solutions Are Available

Fortunately, there are some solutions to the growing issue of insufficient waste management. Recycling and composting are integral to the overall management of trash production in the world. Here are a few ways that every person can make small changes that could have a huge, positive impact on the environment:

  • Compost the materials that can be composted, such as fruit and vegetable peels, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and some shredded paper.
  • Recycle any materials that can be recycled, including newspaper, aluminum, and some type of plastic.
  • Buy only what you need – or at the very least, buy less than you do now.
  • Purchase secondhand items instead of new products whenever possible; this will reduce the amount of packaging you contribute to landfills.
  • Donate any items that can still be used instead of throwing them out as garbage.

Implementing a few changes – such as the ones mentioned here – really can make a difference. We can all do our part to reverse the legacy of waste that we have inherited and perpetuated.

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