Today, Americans are creating more trash than ever. According to the University of Michigan, Americans create more than 200 million tons of solid waste (also known as municipal solid waste, or MSW) each year. Unfortunately, much of this trash is often not properly disposed of and therefore ends up in landfills or incinerators, resulting in additional (and unnecessary) pollution. However, if you’re looking to become more eco-friendly then it is important that you understand the different methods of waste disposal that are currently available.
Landfills and Incinerators (Waste Combustors)
It’s no surprise that landfills are a growing issue in our society. Not only do they take up valuable space, but they’re often filled to the brim with toxins like mead and mercury, along with various other pollutants. These pollutants can leak into the ground, into our water sources and into the air, even if an incinerator is not present at that particular landfill.
While some items will inevitably make it into a landfill or an incinerator, it’s important to realize that many of these items can be recycled or composted.
Eco-Friendly Disposal: Reusing and Recycling
Recycling is the action of reusing materials in their current state or reusing materials to create new materials. The act of recycling itself is relatively straightforward: nearly anything can be reused, though only certain items can be recycled through local recycling centers. This includes products that are marked either with words or the triangular recycling symbol.
Products that can often be recycled include paper products such as old newspapers, steel cans, aluminum cans, glass, various plastics and cardboard.
Products that can be reused and donated to organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army include items like gently used shoes and clothing items, home goods like plates or working appliances and even vehicles that are no longer needed.
You can find a local recycling station at Earth911.com.
Eco-Friendly Disposal: Biodegradable Products
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines biodegradable as any item or object that can be broken down naturally by the environment. Products that are biodegradable are ideal because they naturally break down when thrown out. Plus, some of these products can even be used in an at-home compost pile; though some products may take a few weeks or months to properly break down.
Biodegrading is extremely beneficial because it frees up space in a landfill. Plus, finding biodegradable products is easier than ever. Items like hemp-based products (clothing, blankets, jewelry, etc,) potato chip bags, trash bags and even magazines and more are all being marketed as biodegradable.
University of Michigan: Waste Disposal
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: What Is Recycling?