The Trouble With Trash

Posted: May 13, 2019 by Lisa DeJessa

We have a trash problem.

We throw away a tremendous amount of trash in the US.  More than 500 billion pounds per year, according to the EPA.  To make matters worse, much of what we throw into landfills and incinerators can be recycled. Using recycled materials to manufacture new products such as paper, bottles, and cans helps save money, conserve energy, preserve our natural environment, and improve our communities.

According to a study by Columbia University, Americans trash seven pounds of material per person every single day—that’s 2,555 pounds of material per American every year. Think about how it would feel if you walked around all day with a seven pound dead weight strapped to your back. That’s a lot of trash per person per day.

A staggering 90 percent of all raw materials extracted in the U.S. are ultimately dumped into landfills or burned in incinerators. Those materials should be reused to make new products, but because they’re destroyed, more and more natural resources are extracted every day. 

But what can we do about it?

1.      The best way to reduce our trash problem is to simply consume less. Much of what we buy in the developed world we don’t really need.

2.      The second-best approach to reducing trash is to reuse, repurpose, upcycle, give away or Freecycle things when they can no longer serve their original purpose. 

3.      Lastly, we can recycle many things and use their raw materials in new ways. Glass, many plastics, aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, and even electronics can be taken apart, melted down and made into new things.

But what can I, personally, do about it?

1.      Try a 30 day hold on anything other than necessary purchases. It’s easier than you think and habit forming.

2.      Don’t buy bottled water.

3.      Take a reusable mug to the coffee store! They won’t even look at you funny.

       4.   Take your lunch to work. Save money, eat healthier and throw less away. 

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