By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
During this season of each year, many USA residents spend time engaged in a variety of “spring cleaning” activities. These activities frequently include decluttering by donating household items or trashing them.
When household items are properly trashed, they usually become part of the municipal solid waste management system.
According to the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 300 million tons of municipal solid waste are produced each year. This is three times more than the amount produced annually during the 1960s.
About 25% of municipal solid waste is recycled. Some of it is composted. Some of it is burned.
Municipal solid waste usually is dumped in a landfill. Sometimes, these landfills also contain nonhazardous commercial solid waste. There are nearly 2,000 of these landfills in the USA.
Despite strict guidelines for the construction and maintenance of these landfills, methane and other planet harming substances build up and are released from these landfills. Sometimes the harmful substances are released into the air. Sometimes they seep into the ground and make their way into water supplies.
The EPA warns that there is a “connection between climate change and solid waste.” It reports research studies confirm that “waste prevention is the best management option.”
The EPA encourages recycling too, stating: “Increasing our national recycling rate from its current level of 27 percent to 35 percent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.4 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE, the basic unit of measure for greenhouse gases) over landfilling the same material.”
Certainly, waste prevention best protects the planet. Therefore, as we engage in “spring cleaning” activities this year, among the questions we must ask is:
When – by what date certain – will our annual “spring cleaning” activities not require decluttering by trashing household items that likely will be dumped in municipal solid waste landfills?