I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste I produce, yet I still haven’t gotten down to zero waste. Being mindful, however, has made me realize just how much junk we produce.
How much trash are you and your household tossing out every week? Now, think of that weekly amount of trash multiplied times 52 weeks… and then by 40 years.
The average American creates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, way up from the 1.6 pounds that we produced in 1960. That’s 1,569 pounds of waste! If you need to visualize that, go load 1,570 lbs of weights on a bar the next time you head to the gym and try to lift it (NOTE: I’m joking, this is a crap ton of weight! Don’t even think about trying it).
Approximately 55% of all the United States’ waste ends up in one of the over 3,500 landfills and these landfills are the second-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. It’s important to know that methane is a green house gas 23-times more impactful than CO2.
When the organic material (food, paper, wood, etc.) in our trash breaks down under anaerobic conditions, methane is produced. A lot of what is in our trash, however, doesn’t break down.
I’ve already written several times about plastics (Live A Plastic Free Life, Is Your Kitchen Slowly Poisoning You?). Plastics don’t break down like organic matter. Eventually they begin to degrade to micro-pieces that wreak havoc on biological systems.
Plastic should be avoided and then recycled if you create plastic waste. Yet, beyond plastics there are a host of other nasty things that Americans are tossing into the trash.
Batteries, lightbulbs, paint, used cooking oil, electronics, cosmetics, and medications can be thrown in the trash. That, however, doesn’t mean they should be.
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching – even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” ― Aldo Leopold
Here is how you can dispose of some of the most toxic items that are ending up in your trash. But, always, avoid creating the waste in the first place.