We tend to generate a lot of trash. From roadside litter to dumpsters and landfills, it’s amazing just how much waste we end up having to manage every year. And yet, we still refuse to really get into recycling. Those that do are strict environmentalists. Honestly, aren’t we all technically environmentalists? Without our environment, we couldn’t survive. So maybe it’s time to see just how much recycling and trash pickup can really help our environment.
Let’s start with what waste management actually is. First, it’s not one industry. It can be up to 20 depending on the kind of waste that you’re dealing with, from organic and easily recyclable to sometimes toxic materials that need to handled more carefully. The goal of these industries is to encompass the ideals of the “3 R’s” which are to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible in order to minimize waste management and help the environment.
If you’re thinking that perhaps the trash you generate isn’t contributing to the problem, then let me share a few facts with you. The average person will generate more than four pounds of garbage every day. This same person will throw away over 600 times their body weight of garbage in their lifetime. And that’s just one person. So if you think it isn’t worth the effort to recycle, think again. That’s a lot of waste that you alone are responsible for, and it contributes to a much larger issue. It is estimated that every year, Americans are responsible for more than 200 million tons of garbage. For sports fans, this is enough to fill Busch Stadium from top to bottom twice a day. Imagine how much some smart recycling would be able to reduce that volume.
Here are some comparisons to give you an idea. One of the things we are most guilty of throwing away is food and containers. Food waste alone usually ends up being somewhere around 21.5 million tons every year. If we chose to compost that leftover food instead, it would provide the same effect as removing 2 million cars from the road. That’s how much greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced from this one simple action. And as far as containers go, Americans are guilty of throwing away almost 30 billion bottles and jars every year. If you recycle that, you can save a ton of money and work. For a reference, there were almost 36 billion aluminum cans tossed into the landfill last year. Their scrap value was estimated to be somewhere around $600 million. That’s the kind of impact that just properly recycling cans would have.
So what’s already being done? Well, there are efforts all across the country to minimize the effects of litter. In fact, there is an estimated $11.5 billion spent on these efforts alone annually. And almost 90% of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs. This makes it far easier to recycle organic materials such as newspapers instead of just throwing them into the dumpster with everything else. And by recycling one ton of cardboard, you can save more than 9 tons of cubic yards in a landfill. This makes more room for things that actually need to end up there.
Now, what can you do to help? A lot of things. You can stop throwing litter out of your car while you drive. Start recycling your containers or composting your food. Or, if you make a lot of waste and you don’t have the time to take it off and dispose of it properly, consider renting a dumpster. There are companies that will bring a dumpster to your home or business and dispose of your waste for you, regardless of what it is. The point is, it’s a lot easier than you think to live by the 3 R’s. It doesn’t take a lot of effort on your part and it helps the environment. So make the switch to recycling today in any way you see fit, and see the impact you’ll have on your environment.