Every year, the United States generates approximately 230 million tons
of "trash"--about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Less than one-quarter
of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or
buried in landfills. With a little forethought, we could reuse or recycle
more than 70 percent of the landfilled waste, which includes valuable
as glass, metal, and paper. This would reduce the demand on virgin
materials and eliminate potentially severe environmental, economic, and
public health problems.
Could We Bury It?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many of the country's landfills have been closed for one or both of these two reasons:
- They were full.
- They were contaminating groundwater. The water that flows beneath these deep holes is our drinking water. Once groundwater is contaminated, it is extremely expensive and difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to clean it up.
Could We Burn It?
Yes and no. Incineration does generate energy, but at a cost--it may
toxins into the air and create ash that requires disposal in
landfills, and that takes us back to our starting point: Cities are
out of places to put their trash.
Could We Pay Someone to Take
Not likely. As our population grows, former outlying areas
are becoming bedroom communities, and their residents mount stiff
plans for expanding existing landfills or creating new ones, even in
for some perks. And as local and state government officials cope with the
of their own waste disposal, they are less willing to import other
waste and the pollution it generates. So where does this leave us?
[Find Out about Possible