Out of Sight, Out of Mind – The Real Horrors of Landfills
By Jessica Cho
Where did that Starbucks cup you threw out this morning go? What about the torn-up Zara t-shirt that finally went out of season? And the two disposable water bottles you used up yesterday? Unfortunately, the answer for all of these questions is here:
Insane greenhouse gas emissions. It’s no secret that landfills are releasing copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air. In fact, the EPA found that “Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States…”. This puts landfills just behind the oil, gas, and agriculture industry. What’s more, is that according to TIME, methane, over a 100-year period, is “…25 times more damaging to the environment, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide”.
Everyday people are the most significant contributors. For piece of mind, we like to disassociate ourselves from the stinky landfills that reach high into the sky. However, over half of our trash ends up in landfills. So, unless you’re waste-free, you’re contributing directly to the problem. Uh oh.
Total MSW Generation (by Material), 2013, 254 Million Tons (before recycling), EPA
Just above 34% of recyclable products are recycled, the rest end up in a landfill. Unfortunately, most people aren’t recycling what can be recycled. One common product is the disposable water bottle. According to The Guardian, “Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling, and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles”. In other words, just because something is recyclable, doesn’t mean it’s being recycled.
What makes this lack of recycling even more terrifying is the fact that “Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour.” See BYU Idaho.
Cut down your waste. The most obvious way to reduce the size of our landfills and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce the amount of garbage you are producing. Here are five tips to produce less waste:
- Choose the least-packaged products at stores. I know, those school packs of Lay’s potato chips are tempting, but they also create unnecessary waste that cannot be recycled. Those small portable bags seriously add up. Bulk foods are the best choice!
- Skip the Ziploc bags. Yes, Ziploc bags are recyclable. However, just like plastic shopping bags, only at specific locations like Target and Wal-Mart. They are also supposed to be clean and dry. It’s much easier, and more cost-friendly, to switch to Tupperware, or reusable snack bags.
- Compost! For the food that you cannot donate or consume, the best option is to compost it. Composting is easy, and there are plenty of guides online. Compost will support that vegetable garden you want to grow.
- Switch to a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles are better for your wallet and the Earth. Here’s a guide to picking the best one for you.
- Skip the fast fashion. The rapid growth of fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, H&M, and Zara has created an environmental crisis that shows no signs of abating. The cheaper the clothing, the shorter the period it is worn. Both the production and disposal of cheaply-produced clothing is detrimental to the environment. Instead of fast fashion, opt for higher-quality clothes that will last you a long time. Or, if you want the closet without the extra cash, get creative at a vintage or resale shop!
This blog was submitted to the Greening Forward Blog Competition by Jessica Cho.