Every year the typical American family throws out:
- 2,460 pounds of paper
- 540 pounds of metal
- 480 pounds of glass
- 480 pounds of food scraps
Each of us throws away more than 1,200 pounds of trash per year, far more than people in other countries. About 80% of that trash ends up in landfills. Of the remaining 20%, about 1/2 is recycled and 1/2 is incinerated. One big problem is that we are running out of landfill space -- more than 1/2 of the nation's landfills will be full within 10 years. Where will we put all of our trash when we run out of space?
And trash presents more than just a "running out of space" problem. Between 5% and 15% of what we throw away contains hazardous substances -- substances that can seep into the ground and contaminate air, water and soil, eventually injuring people and other living things. Batteries, plastics, inks used on packages and disposable diapers are just some of the things we throw away that contain hazardous substances.
One of the things we throw away most often is packaging. Think about the products you and your family buy -- from snack foods to CD's, many products contain a great deal of packaging. Some have 4 or 5 layers, including several layers of plastic and far more than may be necessary. If your household is typical, about 1/3 of the packaging you buy will be thrown away immediately upon opening a package.
Excessive packaging also adds to the cost of the products we buy, so we pay extra for products that have a lot of packaging. We also pay for garbage in other ways -- through higher taxes needed to create new landfills, for example, and through higher medical bills and health insurance costs required to cure the illnesses caused by pollution.
The Myth Of Degradability
We used to think that after we discarded something into a landfill that it wold eventually biodegrade -- that it would rot and dissappear completely. But we have come to learn that this really doesn't happen.
In a sense, everything in this world is biodegradable. Given enough time, air, sunlight and other elements, your family's house, car and possessions will eventually break down and wear away. It could take hundreds or even thousands of years for this to occur, but it will happen sooner or later.
But when things are buried in a landfill, where there is little if any air or sunlight, things do not break down. In fact, burying things in a landfill tends to preserve trash rather than dispose of it!
How long till it's gone?
Roughly 40 tons of debris washes up on our beaches every year - 80% of that could be RECYCLED.
Pieces of litter retrieved from U.S. beaches in 2007:
- 55 Gallon Drums = 921
- Appliances = 2,860
- Utensils = 241,087
- Fishing Lures = 13,472
- Cigarettes = 1,684,183
- Shotgun Shells = 18,516
- Cigarette Lighters = 24,447
- Water Bottles = 300,772
- Plastic Bags = 325,921
- Glass Bottles = 252,378
- 6 Pack Holders = 20,983
- Pull Tabs = 65,077
- Toys = 43,102
- Clothing/Shoes = 63,079
- Tires = 11,201
- Soda Cans = 232,956
- Crab/Lobster Fish Traps = 5,028
To much trash is making it's way into our oceans. Join us and become part of the human shield preventing this trash from entering our oceans. Volunteer for a beach cleanup. Bring a friend or two. Make it a Family thing.