According to Yale researchers, the average American tosses about 5 pounds of trash per day…
Yikes. If the amount of garbage piling up in US landfills was divided amongst all 316 million Americans, it would mean each individual is responsible for tossing out about five pounds of trash per day. This inexcusable amount of waste is causing a staggering amount of trash to pile up in landfills and is negatively affecting the environment.
According to Yale researchers who calculated the actual (instead of just estimated) volume of garbage that landfills were reporting to the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA), US residents are actually throwing out twice as much trash as previously thought.
As Phys.org reports, in 2010, the EPA required a large number of municipal landfills to report how much trash was coming onto the property and being dumped. The requirement was mainly to monitor, and hopefully lower, dangerous methane emissions. However, the data proved to be useful in other ways.
According to the EPA, 135 million tons of trash was accumulated in 2012. The Yale researchers who pored over the data found that what was actually being thrown away was closer to 289 million tons. In 2013, numbers crept up another 5 million tons.
Thomas Kinnaman of Bucknell University, who studied the economics of recycling and waste, suggests that these numbers really aren’t as shocking as they appear to be. He argues that landfills have a lot of room to expand to accommodate the rising tons of waste. But just because space is still available, should Americans continue wasting so much? The common sense answer is “No.”
If these numbers are correct, it could be assumed that Americans aren’t recycling as much as they should. The EPA estimates that recycling activity is near 34.5%, but John Powell of the Yale study says that the data represents more of a 21.4% ballpark. With 12.8% of landfill trash supposedly coming from construction and demolition debris, it would seem there’s still a lot of waste Americans produce that could be reused or repurposed.
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