How Much Waste Are We Producing?
Statistics shows that a single person in one day can produce up to 4.39 pounds of trash. We create enough trash to fill 63,000 trucks per day. And during the holidays, we generate an additional 5 million tons of waste. 80% of this holiday waste is composed of shopping bags and wrapping paper, 2 items that could be recyclable. These and many other waste materials end up filling our landfills.
Considering that tons of waste materials are being dumped in our landfills, it is understandable that eventually they will overflow. Decades ago, there were still plenty of landfills in the country with room to spare. However, with increasing material consumption in homes, schools and offices the available space for waste disposal continues to diminish.
Landfill statistics show that in 1979, approximately 18,500 landfills were available to receive trash all across the United States. In 1990, just 11 years later, this number was drastically decreased by almost 60%. According to the landfill statistics given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 1988 there were 7,924 landfills available in the US. In 2006, there were only 1,754 left. This continued decrease in available landfill space is relative to the amount of trash that has been increasing in great proportions.
At present, the biggest landfill in the US is located in Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada. This location alone received 3,824,814 tons of trash in 2007. The second largest is located in Puente Hills, Whittier, California that received 3,756,718 tons of trash in the same year.
Landfills and the Environment
There is a direct adverse correlation between landfills and the environment. One thing that creates the environmental hazard is leachate contaminated groundwater. The EPA defines it as the water that trickles through the waste materials in landfills collecting the hazardous and toxic contaminants in the process. Contamination depends on landfill characteristics including the age of the landfill and the types of waste filling the landfill. Proper construction of landfills and stricter controls of the most toxic and harmful materials are efforts to reduce leachate contaminated groundwater.
What You Can Do
You can reduce consumption of materials to minimize your contribution to the landfills in your area. You can look for creative ways to reuse items before throwing them out. You can look for products that utilize recycled content. And when it’s finally time to discard items, make every effort to donate what’s usable and recycle what’s not.
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