compiled by: Leslie Jones
The following is a compilation of astounding facts about garbage and landfill usage. Put into these terms and perspectives, hopefully, will help to remind us when we make choices about what we throw away...and where we choose to put it.
The average American discards 4.43 pounds of garbage every day.
The total volume of solid waste produced in the U.S. each year is equal to the weight of more than 5,600 Nimitz Class aircraft carriers, 247,000 space shuttles, or 2.3 million Boeing 747 jumbo jets.
If we put all of the solid waste collected in the U.S. in a line of average garbage trucks, that line of trucks could cross the country, extending from New York City to Los Angeles, more than 100 times.
From a spaceship you'll be able to see only two distinguishable things: the Great Wall of China and a landfill in Staten Island, New York.
Only 7.5 percent of your trash comes from the kitchen.
The majority of the stuff that goes into the garbage is in the form of paper -- an impressive 40 percent of what's in landfills is paper.
A glass bottle will survive for almost 1 million years in a landfill.
A plastic bottle will not decompose for 450 years.
Other objects that will stay around in a landfill for 50 years or more include foam cups, tin cans and disposable diapers.
Disposable diapers use up about 1% of US landfill space.
Americans produce enough Styrofoam cups every year to circle the earth 436 times. These cups are completely non-biodegradable, deplete the Earth’s ozone layer, waste enormous amounts of landfill space, and are deadly to marine life.
The plastic bags from the supermarket take 1000 years to decompose. At least four billion plastic bags a year end up as litter in the US out of the 100 billion used.
Americans use 50 million tons of paper annually – consuming more than 850 million trees.
If just 25% of American families used 10 fewer plastic bags a month, it would save over 2.5 billion bags a year.
Each year 22 billion plastic bottles get thrown away (that's 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour).
Enough office and writing paper to build a 12-foot high wall from Los Angeles, CA to New York City, NY is discarded each year.
Over 200 million tires are taken to landfills (that's almost one for every person in the U.S.)
In today's modern landfills, many materials do not have enough air, water, or sunlight to decompose properly, if at all.
Greenhouse gases are generated by waste decomposition in landfills and typically contributes around 10% of a typical household’s total emissions.
The typical household throws out 10-15% of the food it purchases.
After reading these frightening facts about the amount of trash we throw away and just how long it stays in the landfill, please do your part to help modify these figures. We now know more than ever the environmental impact of what we do or don’t do. The more we know, the more we can do to change it….for good.
What Can You Do?
1. Recycle whenever possible
2. Donate unwanted items to a local charity
3. Educate kids about the impact trash has on the environment
4. Measure your family’s Carbon Footprint
Sustainable Lafayette - Did You Know?, http://sustainablelafayette.net/facts/facts-waste.html (accessed February 25, 2014).
Facts about Trash, Garbage, Waste - Environmentalists Everyday, http://www.environmentalistseveryday.org/solid-waste-management/garbage-trash-waste-facts.php (accessed February 25, 2014).
Facts for Kids on Garbage | Everyday Life - Global Post, http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/kids-garbage-9361.html (accessed February 25, 2014).
Fun Facts about Solid Waste - Ann Arbor, Michigan, http://www.a2gov.org/government/publicservices/fieldoperations/solidwasteunit/education/Pages/FunFactsaboutSolidWaste.aspx (accessed February 25, 2014).