Landfills and Social Responsibility

This morning on my radio show, Holistic Living with Barb, on 101.1 FM The Bay Islands Buzz, we discussed Landfills and the issues surrounding them. I’d like to share with you a few of the facts I shared with my morning audience.

* The average American office worker uses about 500 disposal cups every year.
* Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times every year.
* Over 7 billion pounds of PVC is thrown out in the U.S. every year. Only about 1/4 of 1% is recycled.
* Americans use approximately 102 billion plastic bags, creating tons of landfill waste every year.
* Average Americans use the equivalent of one 100 foot tall Douglas Fir tree in paper and wood products each year.
* The estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.
* Approximately 38,000 miles of ribbon is tossed each year, which is enough to tie a bow around the earth.
* The average American generates 4.5 pounds of waste daily.

These facts target the U.S., but no matter where you live, we each need to take responsibility for our own garbage! It is up to each and everyone of us to learn and then educate others on how we can minimize the impact we have on the planet.

The majority of municipal solid waste ends up in landfills. Pay attention to what you are tossing. Items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries. All of this garbage comes from homes, schools, churches, hospitals, and businesses.

In the U.S. alone it is estimated that approximately 560,000 acres are being used for landfills. That my friends is a lot of land.

So, how can we as individuals make a difference? The old mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” continues to be the mantra for today.

Let me share a few ways you may be able to reduce, reuse, and recycle:
– Purchase products with less packaging
– When purchasing meats or deli items at the store, ask them to package it without the Styrofoam
– Use your own reusable bags when grocery shopping, or reuse the plastic bags from your previous store visit
– Purchase items in bulk whenever possible
– Use cloth napkins, sponges, and dishcloths instead of paper napkins and paper towels
– Reuse jars and containers
– Reuse boxes
– Use reusable containers for food storage rather than plastic wrap, plastic bags, or foil
– Recycle paper by sending it to your compost pile (this includes paper napkins and paper towel)
– Purchase items utilizing recycled packaging
– Recycle food scraps in your compost pile
– Send old items to charitable organizations, or sell at yard sales
– Cut up those Styrofoam containers and use them for drainage in your planter boxes

Here is a very quick sampling of the length of time it takes for items to decompose:
* Banana peel – 3/4 weeks
* Paper bag – 1 month
* Cardboard – 2 months
* Wool sock – 1 year
* Steel can – 50 years
* Disposable diapers – 25/100 years
* Plastic Bags – up to 1000 years
* Styrofoam – up to 1 million years!!! Do whatever you can to avoid Styrofoam!

For more information and additional ideas on how you can reduce, reuse, recycle, visit this recycling guide.
More information on landfills in the U.S. and the disaster they create visit Zero Waste America.