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A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wanted to find out how much trash Americans toss out each day and where it all goes.
The researchers placed transmitter chips on thousands of pieces of garbage, from dog food cans to printer cartridges. What they discovered is that Americans throw out more than 7lbs of trash each day - that's 102 tons in a lifetime!
Among the other findings:
- Trash is America's number one export; our number one export to China is scrap (potentially recyclable materials including metals).
- Most American communities spend more on waste than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries, or schoolbooks.
- New York City transports 12,000 tons of trash each day to out-of-state landfills...bcomparable to dumping 62 Boeing 747 jumbo jets per day.
- At 500 feet, one of the tallest structures in Los Angeles is the Puenta Hills Landfill, which now holds 60 years' worth of decomposing garbage.*
"Puenta Hills is just one of about 2,000 landfills in the US," says Doug Berjer, Brand Manager for CFR, maker of recycling carpet extractors. "It is estimated that more than five billion pounds of carpeting is also sent to landfills each year, some of which could be avoided with more frequent and effective carpet cleaning."
Many countries around the world are far more advanced when it comes to how they handle their garbage. In Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, less than 4% of garbage goes to landfills, while Germany does no landfilling at all.
"Much of the waste in these countries is incinerated and then turned into electricity," says Doug. "But a great deal of it is recycled. Recycling is not an afterthought in these countries but a way of life."
*Sources: Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash (New York: Penguin Group, 2012). Grappling With a Garbage Glut, The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2012.
24th May 2012