Monday, January 12, 2009

Trash Talk

I've been reading this book You Are Here, which I'll write a review of later this week. In each chapter, the author visits a different place on the planet, and ties it into our personal habits and practices. Right now I'm on the chapter on garbage. A quick search of the EPA website reveals this fact about Americans and garbage:

Municipal solid waste (MSW) generation in 2007 declined to 4.62 pounds per person per day. This is a decrease of 0.6 percent from 2006 to 2007. The recycling rate in 2007 was 1.54 pounds per person per day (an increase of 2.7 percent over 2006). Discards sent for combustion with energy recovery remained steady at 0.58 pounds per person per day. Discards sent to landfills after recycling and combustion with energy recovery declined to 2.50 pounds per person per day in 2007. This is a decrease of 2.7 percent from 2006 to 2007

They also noted that:

The tons recovered for composting rose to 21.7 million tons in 2007, up from 20.8 million tons in 2006.

This is all good news - Americans are recyliing more, decreasing the solid waste stream, composting more.

The scary fact really in that whole paragraph is that we still send 2.50 pounds of garbage per person per day to landfills, after composting, recycling, and trash taken out for combustion. 2.5 Pounds. Per person. Per day!!!

So I set out to discover this week how our family stacks up, so maybe we can find more ways to reduce our waste. This week I weighed every piece of compost, recycling, and garbage that went out of the house.

Here's what I found for our family of four for the week:

Garbage: 5.2 Pounds
Recycling: 7.5 pounds
Glass Recycling: 7 pounds
Compost and food scraps to chickens: 15 pounds

For our family, that brings it to

Garbage: .18 pounds per person per day
Combined recycling (glass and other): .5 pounds per person per day
Compost and chicken scraps: .53 pounds per person per day

Not bad compared to the national averages, but I know we can do better. For one thing, if we start making our own kombucha, a lot of that glass will go away because we currently buy it from the store in glass bottles.

Frankly, when I look at the amount of garbage and recycling that our household generates, it seems like a lot sitting there. I'm astonished that the national average is 13 times more garbage per person per day. That's really an incredibly huge mountain of trash per person. Surely we as a nation can do better than that.

So pass the word: weigh your garbage, start a compost bin, reduce the amount of stuff in packaging coming in to your house, recycle more. Let's see if we can get that number down, way down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! I also feel badly seeing my (apparently relatively small) amount of trash every week - I just can't get my head around what makes up the average trash bag with 2.5lbs/week. Does the book also address that? I'll try yo find it at the library this week.