Take a quick look in your garbage bin and what do you find? While you may be a keen, green, garbage-separating machine, the average American produces almost five pounds of waste every day.1
Of the millions of tonnes of waste produced annually in America, 85 percent is taken to landfills. When we take our trash to the curb to send to someone else's backyard, it may seem easy to get away with this "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, but we can't turn a blind eye to this issue forever. Landfills are filling up fast and with this are increasing risks of substances leaching from landfills and contaminating ground and surface water. So how can we reverse this statistic to make only 15 percent of waste go to the dump? In this day and age we have to be creative with how we approach 3-R practices.
Many of us have come to equate adhering to the principles of the 3-Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) as doing our part for the environment. But if we are truly following the 3-Rs, why are we only recycling 15 percent of all the solid waste we produce? Is there something we can do to reduce the 85 percent of waste that goes to the landfill? The EPA states that our landfills generally consist of paper, yard trimmings, metals, glass, plastic, food scraps, and "others" (including textiles, rubber, leather, and inorganic waste). With the exception of that last miscellaneous category, it is possible to either recycle, compost, or reuse all of the other materials currently filling our dump sites.
First and foremost, we can reduce the waste that we produce by making simple changes in our daily lives. Such simple changes include using reusable rather than plastic bags, refusing to buy items with excess packaging, and using a travel mug instead of disposable cups. For more information see: here and here
Source reduction is the most effective way to combat our waste problem as it gets straight to the root of the issue. By asking ourselves questions such as, "Do I really need this product?" and "Are there alternatives to this product that produce less waste?" we can prevent waste from ever becoming an issue by eliminating it all together.
Secondly, when it comes to the products that we do or need to consume, it is important to think proactively about purchasing items that we can reuse, or better yet, that have already been used. Rather than purchasing a brand new item, look for opportunities to buy it second-hand, by going to a local thrift store or looking for items on craigslist.com. If it is not possible to reuse items yourself, then instead of disposing them or leaving them unattended, you can donate them to charity, have a garage sale, or sponsor a clothing swap. For creative and fun ideas on how you can reuse products, see: here and here at ecomii.com.
This idea leads right into our third "R", Recycle, which by definition means to convert waste into reusable material. Nowadays, most people associate this term with simply separating tin cans, papers, and plastic receptacles from the rest of the waste. However, try to expand on this idea with other items, such as finding creative and fun methods of using items in new ways. Rather than throwing out old or cracked pots, pans and dishes, why not grow a little garden in them? Take a look at: ecomii.com . . . .
In essence, to overcome our problems with the production and disposal of waste we need to think outside the box and share our resources. We need to think proactively about the consumer choices we make and about the durability, sustainability, and life of the products we purchase. ....read more