We live in a convenient society where anything we want is instantly ready and encased in a single use container. From water bottles to trash bags, to To-Go containers, once it has served its purpose its discarded. Thanks to this convenient out of sight out of mind mentality we are now facing a trash epidemic where we are producing more trash than we can handle.
The United States alone generates 624,700 metric tons of trash per year, and a staggering 55% of this trash is dumped into landfills. Landfills are giant craters in the ground with the sole purpose of being filled with trash and covered later. Yes, the trash “disappears” but this method of disposing of waste is known to poison the land in the area, contaminate water sources, add pollutants to the air, and is the largest source of methane gas production. Methane gas is a major contributor to global warming as it is a greenhouse gas. Our trash doesn’t stop there either, it ransacks the oceans killing wildlife and destroying habitats. This trash has even collected and created an island that floats in the Pacific Ocean, and it’s twice the size of Texas. At this rate, by 2050 the plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish pound per pound. We are not only harming the environment, but we are harming ourselves. As inhabitants of this planet and the main contributors to this trash production, we must make a change, and we can.
We should be more aware of the type, and amount of trash we make on a day to day basis. The majority of single-use products are made of plastic, which take anywhere from 100 to 1000 years to decompose. Plastic was invented in 1907, which means that the majority of the plastic we created over the past 112 years is still on the planet. Refraining from the use of single-use plastics is a great way we can cut down on trash. Instead of using plastic straws, forks, and containers we can walk around with bamboo cutlery and metal straws. Still, a lot of the plastic we use is unavoidable in today’s society but we can cut back on the amount we use. If you do ultimately use plastic try using plastic that has a lower number on the Resin Identification Code, which are found on the bottom of most plastic bottles and containers because these are more likely to be recycled. Also, take the extra step and ensure your plastic is recycled. Another way we can reduce the trash we make is by composting as 31% of the trash we dispose of are organic compounds that can be decomposed, and in New York City any neighborhood garden collects compostable goods. These changes aren’t easy and won’t happen overnight, but in an ideal world, everyone would live a zero-waste lifestyle.
We produce an overabundance of trash on a day-to-day basis without a care in the world. It is important for us to be more mindful about the trash we make and take steps to reducing it. We should avoid plastic and instead have our own substitutes at the ready. Composting will also help us reduce our trash production. Until we reach the goal of a zero-waste lifestyle we must take these small steps in order to help ourselves and the planet.
Simmons, Ann M. “The World’s Trash Crisis, and Why Many Americans Are Oblivious.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2016, www.latimes.com/world/global-development/la-fg-global-trash-20160422-20160421-snap-htmlstory.html. (Photo is from this website)
Ritchie, Hannah. “FAQs on Plastics.” Our World in Data, 2 Sept. 2018, ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics.
“Toxics Action Center.” Https://Toxicsaction.org/, toxicsaction.org/issues/waste/.
Loria, Kevin. “The Giant Garbage Vortex in the Pacific Ocean Is over Twice the Size of Texas – Here’s What It Looks Like.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 8 Sept. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch-view-study-plastic-2018-3#the-area-they-focused-on-is-a-particularly-concentrated-part-of-one-of-the-five-global-gyres-where-ocean-currents-collect-plastic-from-around-the-world-3.
Quintana, Mariela. “The Future of NYC’s Waste: Getting to Zero.” Streeteasy.com, 1 Mar. 2017, streeteasy.com/blog/where-nyc-garbage-goes/.