Did you know the US produces about 230 million tons of trash per year?
That would mean every person generates an average of 4.6 pounds per day. About 1.5 out of this 4.6 pounds waste is recycled. The rest (which is about 70%) goes on into the nation’s landfills.
As you read this, thousands of tons of waste are being dumped into the country’s 3000 plus active landfills and 10,000 old municipal landfills and that’s not even counting the innumerable local and private dump sites scattered around the country.
A landfill liner is just 1/10 of an inch thick and stats show 75% of landfills have leaks in them (Leak Location Services).
So what does this mean?
- Contaminated water bodies?
- Poor crop yield?
- Dangerous chemical leaks?
- Deteriorating landscape?
Yes, all that and much more.
For a country which is largely dependent on groundwater, this issue requires special and immediate attention. The rapidly growing population and economic development in the recent decade has acted as a catalyst for the problem and the environmental risk posed by landfills has escalated.
The US government hasn’t really been sleeping on the issue but it’s an occluded picture.
The number of the country’s landfills decreased from about 8000 in 2005 to just a little over 1500 in 2010. The US Environmental Protection Agency has been busy replacing old, low capacity and less environmental friendly landfills with efficient and environmentally stable ones. What has really happened is they have smartly decreased land space requirements by increasing landfill capacity. The US EPA assures that there is still about 25 years capacity in the US landfills and being optimistic, this will increase.
However, landfills and dump sites have never been environmentalists’ favorite way of waste disposal.
No matter how much effort we put into making them environmentally friendly, there will always be chances of leaching. This would be just like adding a good amount of poison into your drinking water reservoir. While landfills are a necessity, the best and most economical solution is waste recycling.
You’d be amazed to know about 70% of what we dump into the landfill is recyclable.
Imagine the money we could be making by recycling 70% of the 230 million tons we dump in landfills. That’s just like dumping money into the ground. One amazing entrepreneurial example is China’s richest lady Zhang Yin who recycles scrap paper and is currently worth $3.4 billion.
There’s an immense potential in the recycling industry.
Recycling is not only limited to paper, plastic and glass as most think. A major portion of municipal solid waste is organic. This could be converted into fertilizer or used for production of biogas through anaerobic digestion, which is an amazing energy solution. Experiments have shown sludge generated from organic waste is a far better fertilizer than inorganic ones, as well as being cheaper. It could do wonders in the agricultural industry if used properly.
Recycling electronics, although complex, is another good option and can generate healthy revenue for entrepreneurs in this arena.
Nobody can argue that Earth is one of our most important stewardships
Today as we wrestle with pollution and increased usage of land for dumping our garbage in, it’s in our best interests that more and more investments are needed for recycling and turning our waste into reusabel products or ernergy supplies.
Waste to Power: Converting Landfills to Usable Products
Bio-refineries use gasification and ethanol reactors to create green fuels, power, and products. These processes result in cleaner air, water, and land for the community.
So, in a few words, here’s what’s going on. The US is generating huge amounts of waste. This waste is posing to be a health risk. But we could turn the tables around and recycle most if not all of it. We just need more initiative.
Certainly worth thinking about!
Willie Deutsch is an environmentally conscious young person who supervises online marketing for Vijuvenate, a company specializing in green superfood