Wastefulness. I know other countries are guilty of this as well, but I feel that we in the “land of opportunity” take special care to waste everything.
A study by the University of Utah states that Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but produce 30% of the world’s garbage. If the entire world lived like Americans, we would need two more Earths.
The study also states that we throw away enough trash every day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks and in the average person’s lifetime, they will throw away 90,000 lbs of trash.
HALF of the garbage Americans throw out could be recycled. Of these recyclables, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire commercial air fleet every three months, enough steel to reconstruct Manhattan, and enough wood to heat 5 million homes for 200 years.
Forbes Magazine estimates that Americans import and export 40 million tons of trash and we are running out of landfill sites. We produce about 254 million tons of trash per year. Other countries with significant trash production are Russia, Japan, Germany, and the UK, however, Japan and Germany have very high recycling rates.
We have three outdoor garbage cans. One for trash, one for recycle and one for yard waste. Our recycle bin is overflowing every week, and we have about two trash bags in the actual trash. I harp on my husband to stop being lazy and recycle. He will just throw stuff in the trash that can easily be recycled. In our kitchen, we have a regular trash can and a Trader Joe’s bag that we use for recycling. We also have a trash can in the garage for Ally’s diapers when she wakes up in the morning. My husband has a tendency to throw trash in that bin that can be recycled, but then doesn’t want to root through dirty diapers to sort the recycling. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled stuff out of the huge trash bin and put it in the recycle. When I cut up fruit and vegetables, I put the waste in the yard waste bin. If I put it in the trash, it can’t decompose in the plastic bag.
Recycling is easy. My sister lives in Huntington Beach, where they actually decided that it would be better, as a city, to have all the trash collected the same and then have workers sort through it for recycling. Somehow it’s more cost effective than having separate recycle bins and recycle trucks. I think it’s great. It means that an entire city is recycling, and not just those who choose to separate their trash.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that recycling:
- Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators;
- Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals;
- Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to collect new raw materials;
- Saves energy;
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change;
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations;
- Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States.
If you don’t recycle…start. Think about your waste. There is always something you can do with it. In my neighborhood, there is a man who drives around with a pick up truck. If anything is left on the curb for free, he drives around to take it. I know that I can leave anything on my curb and he will take it. He took the log holder from my fireplace, an old BBQ and an ottoman. Someone always has a use for something. When my stroller broke in the middle of an intersection (with Ally in it), I left it outside a dumpster, because I know that someone can fix it. All it needed was a new handle. The town I was in had a huge homeless population so I know it went to good use. Somebody can always use something. Somebody can always fix something.
Not only is recycling good for the earth, it’s good for these little things too…
Have you heard of the Pacific Floating Garbage Patch? It’s a huge patch of trash floating in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. It’s estimated to be over 7 million square miles and over 100 feet deep. The patch is described as ‘plastic soup’. It’s not stiff enough to walk on, but a floating blob of garbage killing and poisoning ocean life. This is one of the primary reasons I won’t eat fish (that and it makes me want to barf…I like fish, but I threw it up when pregnant and haven’t been able to eat it since). Birds and fish mistake plastic for food. According to Charles Moore of the Algalita Foundation, plastic outweighs surface plankton by a factor of 6 to 1. Ninety percent of albatross chick carcasses and regurgitated stomach contents contain plastic. In addition, plastic releases chemicals into the water and the pollutants bioaccumulate into the tissues of marine organisms, and then eventually into the foods we eat. A fish eats plankton which has been absorbing chemicals leeched from plastic, hence, you eat plastic when you eat fish. When 2.5 billion people rely on fish as their animal protein, this can become a serious problem. Even more interestingly, most of the trash is the size of a thumbnail. Not only is this patch causing damage to ocean life we can see, but the patch blocks the sun from reaching plankton and algae. If plankton and algae are threatened, the food chain can be altered significantly, leaving many animals without a food source and susceptible to endangerment and extinction.
While America is not the only country responsible for litter, we are considered by the rest of the world to be trash mongers.