Trash in the United States
In the United States, the levels of trash have been increasing since the Second World War, and trash production has tripled since 1960. The issue of increase in wastes does not only affect the United States as it is a global issue and almost all countries are being affected by increases in waste production. However, it is ironical that the United States is home to approximately four percent of the world’s population yet it produces more than thirty percent of the world’s total waste (Truelove, Bradford and Broude). This essay discusses the issue of trash production and its disposal in America as it was discussed by Heather Rogers in her book Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage.
Heather explains the different types of garbage that are disposed of by Americans on a daily basis, and she recognizes that the increase in waste disposal is a problem facing the globe. From her research, she realized that waste increases occurred after the Second World War since before that most waste materials were reused or recycled. After the war, ideologies changed where economic prosperity was associated with increased production. This changed the way factories were operating before where they got their raw materials through recycling waste and instead more natural resources were extracted for production of new goods.
This interfered with waste management, and this led to an increase in wastes both in the United States and in the world. After the war, recycling became less popular as it was seen to slow down production and high production was needed for economic prosperity.Before the Second World War, trash was separated into four types which are organic wastes, unusable items, food slop and ashes (Rogers, 65). However, the introduction of waste trucks posed as a cheaper method of waste disposal, and it was implemented. This meant that all types of waste would go into one place making it more difficult for recycling to take place.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all the waste materials in the United States today. It does this through the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that was enacted thirty years after the Second World War (Statista). As Rogers pointed out, landfills became the most common and cheap method of waste disposal, and these are the most commonly used even today. The regulation of landfills is done by the EPA following the guidelines provided by the RCRA.
The RCRA outlines how waste materials both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes should be disposed of. The EPA ensures that landfills comply with the regulations of the federal government and that it avoids contaminating underground water. Despite this control, Rogers (Pg. 83) believes that landfills have led to environmental degradation. According to the EPA, fifty-five percent of the trash in the United States goes to the landfills, and this acts as proof to Roger’s argument that despite the controls on landfills, they still lead to environmental degradation.
The highest composition of trash in the United States us packaging materials. For example, the use of disposable bottles for drinks such as beverages instead of refillable bottles is one cause of the increase in packaging materials wastes (Truelove, Bradford and Broude). In the U.S., approximately thirty percent of the total waste is made up of packaging materials. Rogers also discusses the issue of factory waste that is a common contributor to the increase in waste (Pg. 137). The EPA has outlined laws that guide the proper disposal of wastes from factories.
However, these laws do not act as an incentive to reduce wastes. This is because ninety percent of materials extracted so that they can be used to meet the demand for consumable goods go into waste. Natural resources are used in the production of goods which are only used briefly then thrown away into landfills. Disposal of waste leads to the waste of natural resources and pollution of the environment due to the wastes. This, therefore, calls for the factories to recycle wastes since there are many usable materials in the trash that factories can reuse.
There are various ways that individuals and companies today have tried to reduce the amount of wastes. Reducing wastes will reduce the number of landfills, and this will help in conserving the environment. Households are advised to purchase goods that are necessary so that the municipal solid waste of over two hundred and fifty million pounds collected today can be decreased (Statista). As Rogers suggests, wastes contributed by individual choices, and factory wastes should be reduced (Pg. 201). The reduction can be through reusing and recycling. Households should reuse some of the materials that are thrown away, and yet they can be reused in the household. Factories should recycle their wastes so that the wastes from factories can be reduced. Factories should turn their wastes into usable materials, and this will reduce the amount of wastes that goes into landfills.
The issue of wastes in America and the world, in general, has been discussed by many authors. Heather Rogers explains this issue in details explaining the situation before the Second World War and how it has changed to today. Environmental pollution due to increases in solid wastes can be detected in the world, and therefore it requires that people and industries change their ways so that these wastes can be reduced.
Rogers, Heather. Gone tomorrow: The hidden life of garbage. New Press, The, 2006. 1-207
Statista. “Waste Management in the United States – Statistics & Facts.” The Statistics Portal. 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/topics/2630/waste-management-in-the-united-states/
Truelove Alexander, Bradford Abi and Broude Sylvia. “TRASH IN AMERICA.” Moving From Destructive Consumption To A Zero-Waste System. 2017