Monday, August 30, 2010

Trash Talk

Welcome to Day 2 of the No Impact Week. Let's talk some trash.

“In 2006, the U.S. produced more than 251 million tons of trash – 4.6 pounds per PERSON per DAY.” –EPA Municipal Solid Waste Data for 2006

On a daily basis think of what you consume. Most of it is packaging or a plastic bag. When you go to the bakery wanting a doughnut why do you also have to receive a piece of parchment paper used to pick up the doughnut and a paper bag to carry the doughnut around? All you need is the doughnut.

Recently I went to my student bookstore to purchase my books and was appalled. Not only because 2 books cost me $270 but I was forced to use packaging. My book for Spanish class could not be bought used, because it came with some electronic device I will use in the class. I had to buy this shiny saran-wrapped book. Then upon leaving the store I told the cashier I didn’t need a bag. From the look on her face you would have thought I’d asked her to carry my books for me. After giving me the crazy eye she told me I had to use a bag for “security reasons” so the store would know I paid for my books. Umm last I checked that’s what a receipt is for.

All in all by reducing your packaging consumption you are sacrificing nothing, you still get the products you originally wanted you just cut out the saran wrap. And when you do use a package, if possible, RECYCLE it. If that’s all you are able/willing to give up for the environment at the moment you are still making a huge difference since:

-Paper waste accounts for about 35% of the total material filling up landfills. Paper is probably the easiest material to recycle.

-Americans alone throw away enough aluminum to duplicate the full commercial air fleet of the US. Again, aluminum is a recyclable material.

- In 2008, the United States generated about 13 million tons of plastics in the Municipal Solid Waste stream as containers and packaging, almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, and almost 11 million tons as durable goods.

Here are some easy everyday practices to incorporate into your daily life that will help you start to reduce your use:

-Reusable grocery and produce bags. Buy bulk whenever possible.

-Reusable travel coffee cup. Never leave home without it, and many coffee places give you a discount!

-Stainless Steel Straws

-Bring your own water bottle. It’s estimated we use 1.6 million barrels of oil every year, just making plastic bottled water.

-Eat out a lot? Bring a Tupperware for your leftovers.

-Pack yourself a lunch in reusable Tupperware containers instead of buying a lunch all wrapped in packaging. Or instead of packing a lunch in plastic baggies a brown paper bag.

-Bring your own bags when out shopping.

-Paper has two sides, use both.

-Read documents on the computer, you don’t need to print everything out (especially that 23 page class syllabus, it’ll always be online).

-Learn about alternatives for personal care.

Remember just because it says “disposable” does not mean it disposes of itself when you throw it away:
- It’s estimated that plastic won’t begin to decompose in a landfill for at least 1,000 years.
- Plastic bags that are exposed to air and sunshine will decompose in 10-20 years. The sun shines real bright in that landfill huh?
- It takes millions of years for glass to decompose, recycle it!
- Aluminum cans that are buried in a landfill take around 80-200 years to decompose. But when they’re recycled, it takes as much energy to make 20 cans as it does to make one brand new one.
- Every cigarette butt that’s thrown out the window takes one to five years to decompose.
- Newspaper takes about 2-4 weeks to decompose. Recycle it though!
- In 2007, over 12% of our garbage was made of food scraps, which could easily be composted. When food decomposes without oxygen it produces methane, which is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
- In the US over 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away every year and they will remain in that landfill for over 550 years. Solution? Cloth + pins.
- Finally Styrofoam will probably be around for about 1 million years, and its hard to recycle. Avoid it!

Sorry about all the fact heavy post, again. Tomorrow I will not try to scare you into going green with more "fun" facts- I promise :) Happy composting and recycling(I hope)!

Did you try noticing how much trash you used today?

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