U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Essay

1228 words - 5 pages

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal solid waste, MSW1, of which only 87 million tons were recycled or composted (“Municipal Solid Waste”, 1). This value, however, does not represent the total amount waste generated by the United States since MSW only accounts for 2 percent of total waste generated. As more trash is generated, space to construct more landfills becomes an issue. In order to reduce the amount of solid waste produced, the federal government must implement and enforce a new waste disposal method that emphasizes composting food waste.

To begin with, in the U.S., trash is most commonly sent to a landfill, unfortunately though, once it arrives there little sorting occurs. According to the EPA, “Nationally, food is the single most common material sent to landfills. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas” (“Cupertino Honored”). At a landfill, trash arriving is only screened for liquids in order to avoid the creation of leachate, or water that is contaminated from dissolved chemicals in garbage. Once screened, dumped, and covered, bacteria begin to decompose the trash and, as a result, release methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The fact is that landfills are ideally supposed to be used to bury garbage that is non-decomposable, however, with the garbage collection method that is currently in place across many states, all unsorted garbage is being sent there. In addition, “...traditional trash disposal not only wastes material that can enrich soil but accelerates climate change. Organic matter decomposing in landfill accounts for 16.2 percent of the nation’s emissions of methane…” (Eilperin). The decomposition of organic matter yields nutrients that get lost in the landfill and instead release a large amount of methane gas into the atmosphere.Through current waste disposal methods, products that can be produced through recycling and composting are being squandered and rendering landfills an ineffective method of disposing garbage.

Across the country cities have taken the initiative to reduce their carbon footprint and enact stricter regulations for sorting trash and collecting it. As stated by Phuong Le of the Seattle Times, “Striving to reduce the trash it sends to landfills, Seattle has banned foam take-out containers and plastic bags, told residents they must recycle cardboard and compost food scraps...” (“Seattle Idea”). In order to eliminate excess waste from entering landfills, Seattle has prohibited the distribution of non-decomposable items and encouraged composting and recycling. By introducing strict regulations on non-decomposable materials entering the city and having its citizens sort their own trash, the amount of waste that a city sends to landfills will be reduced. Wheeler, journalist for the...

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