Sure, you recycle, but what about all that garbage you’re putting on the curb each week, too? Maybe some of these persuasive factors will convince you to cut back on what you put in the trash.
1. Know How Much You‘re Tossing
Wonder how much trash you produce each day? Statistically speaking, it’s 4.38 pounds. Most Americans would estimate that their personal waste disposal is much lower, however, indicating that people are oblivious to how much garbage they create. While it might be easily overlooked because 4 pounds is still light enough to carry, challenge someone to lift a whole year’s worth of their trash – 1,600 pounds – and they’d realize just how many resources they’re wasting.
That amount of trash is also more frightening in context. Americans produced half that amount of trash back in 1960. Alas, we cannot attribute all of that increase to the demands of a modern, industrialized lifestyle. Western Europeans, whose lifestyles resemble Americans closely, still produce only 2 pounds of trash per day. Clearly we’re throwing out far more than necessary.
2. Get Intimate with Your Trash
If the thought of lifting all of that garbage isn’t enough, an actual visual might do the trick. Photographer Gregg Segal took photos of Californians lying in a pile of their own trash. The subjects of the photos were asked to keep their trash for an entire week to showcase exactly what gets taken out to the curb every seven days.
Though disgusting, the images also inevitably tell the story of these family units, like how they live and what they consume. Are you going to literally lie in your own garbage to teach yourself a lesson? Most likely not, although merely threatening yourself with this hypothetical could be just what you need to motivate yourself to stop throwing so much in the trash in the first place.
3. Environmental Consequences Are Greater Than You Think
Have you ever stopped to think where your trash winds up? Yes, dumps, obviously, but the process is actually much more complex than that. While the United States on the whole is still centuries away from running out of landfill space altogether, certain states will run out of room to store trash within the next decade. Additionally, the number of waste facilities that exist throughout the country has decreased by 75 percent in the last 20 years.
That means that garbage not only has to travel, but to travel further than usual to reach its final destination. By sending trash across multiple state lines, the United States is burning a lot of fuel just to get it to a designated landfill. In that sense the environmental impact of garbage is worse than many consider: trash disposal is increasing its rate of carbon emissions every day.
4. Check out a Landfill
Perhaps it will take visiting a landfill to get you to realize just how stuff is thrown away on a daily basis. The Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island is certainly an eye-opener. Taking up two-and-a-half times more land than Central Park and stacking garbage higher than the Statue of Liberty, although the dump is not typically considered a tourist destination, it would be a good place to visit if we wanted to be honest with ourselves about how much we consume and toss.
If the smell is a deterrent from getting up close and personal with the Fresh Kills Landfill, don’t worry: you can also look at it from afar. In fact, it is one of only a handful of man-made structures on earth that are visible from outer space.
Okay, feeling inspired to reduce the amount of trash you produce? Here are 11 tips to help you achieve that goal.
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