ENG 1101. 0261
07 December 2017
Reduce the Amount of Garbage at Home: Is Garbage a Real Problem?
Has anyone thought of how many garbage humans make per year and where the garbage goes? In the world of consumerism, people usually pay more attention to what goods and/or services they have enjoyed than what waste they have left. According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated over 258 million tons of trash in 2014, around 65 percent of which comes from individuals and households. Moreover, only 89 million tons of garbage were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 34.6 percent recycling rate.CITATION Uni13 l 1028 (EPA). Here comes a question: In addition to being recycling, where did the other garbage go? According to EPA, fifty-five percent got buried in landfills and around ten percent went to incinerators. If the garbage goes to a landfill, it will end up sealed under the ground. In general, it will not decompose much because the garbage cannot be exposed in the air. Landfills have some negative environmental impacts which may leak liquids into the groundwater and pollute it despite the advanced designing. Besides, landfills may release some gases which increase the greenhouse gas emissions on earth. If garbage goes to an incinerator, it gets burned. This process also produces gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, both of which cause smog and acid rain.CITATION Dan17 l 1028 (Kulpinski). Overall, garbage problem is real and it is becoming big and urgent as people continue consuming and wasting more and more. It emerges in most big cities in the world. To leave a better planet for humans, people need to reduce the amount of garbage at home because households largely contribute to this amount.
Some people may say that most individuals and households just consume what they need and the amount of garbage they generate is not a big deal. However, according to an article by Reynard Loki, an American produces average 4.4 pounds of trash every single day, significantly more than the global average of 2.6 pounds. And an average American family generates 17.4 pounds of trash per day, or 6351 pounds of trash per year, which is equivalent to the length of Golden Gate Bridge. In a nation of nearly 324 million people, that amounts to more than 250 million tons of garbage produced per year- enough trash to reach the moon and back 25 times!CITATION Lok16 l 1028 (Loki, Reynard; AlterNet;). Therefore, the question is not whether households should reduce the amount of garbage but how households can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste. According to EPA, there are some tips for home to get started. First, households can use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic wastes to create a compost pile which may be added to soil to increase water retention, decrease erosion, and keep organic materials out of landfills. Second, households can raise the cutting height of their lawnmowers during hot summer months to keep grass roots shaded and cooler, reducing weed growth, browning, and the need for watering. Third, households can reduce waste (and save money) by setting up a sharing program with their neighbors if they need large lawn and garden equipment such as tillers and chainsaws.CITATION EPA l 1028 (EPA).
While recycling almost becomes the consensus when it comes to reducing the amount of garbage, some people argues that it is more expensive to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. This argument points out a fact that the value of recycling depends on the material. In other words, what makes recyclables valuable is their rarity. For example, glass is more costly to recycle than trees because trees are scarcer than sand which is the raw material of glass. CITATION EPA l 1028 (EPA). However, if people choose to send their garbage to a landfill rather than recycle it due to the financial trade off, those people will just gain their own benefits at expense of everyone’s environmental cost. Needless to say, it is unfair and unethical. Furthermore, according to the article by Reynard Loki, the number of active waste landfills in the United States has decreased since 1988 though the number may be slightly deceptive, as there has been some consolidation of landfills and some landfills are able to deal with more garbage because of advancement in technology. CITATION EPA l 1028 (EPA). That said, land is a kind of limited resource; therefore, people will have less space for landfill in the future. In addition to limited space for landfill, methane produced from landfill is another main concern about landfills. Methane generated by organic trash like food waste and yard trimmings, according to EPA, causes 21 times as much warmings as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period. CITATION EPA l 1028 (EPA). Since we have only one earth, governments should take actions to encourage households to recycle their waste as much as possible to reduce the amount of garbage at home. When it comes to waste management, plastic bags are one of the sticky problems for governments to solve. Generally, to manage plastic bag waste, the governments have three policies, bans, recycling, and taxes, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. According to an article by Megan E. McLaughlin and John M. Halstead, when banning plastic bags, research found that paper bags should be banned or taxed to prevent consumers from switching to this alternative, which has a larger carbon footprint (Ketcham, n.d.). A tax on bags needs to be set high enough that consumers will change their behavior.CITATION EMc16 l 1028 (E, McLaughlin Megan; Halstead, John M;). It would be better for recycling policies to be accompanied with education programs to make it a habit for consumers. In addition to the study by Megan E. McLaughlin and John M. Halstead in U.S., another empirical study by Hai Lan Yang and Robert Innes in Taiwan finds that there is significant salutary effect of Taipei’s continuous unit-weight garbage charges in promoting material-specific recycling, and mandatory recycling, when combined with the strict enforcement made possible by Taiwan’s cumbersome system of garbage collection, has provided a significant spur to recycling.CITATION Hai l 1028 (Hai-Lan and Innes). For example, in the case of Taipei, in July 2000, the Taipei City government introduced a user fee policy which required households to purchase official garbage bags (with official stamps) for their general waste setouts. The pricing schedule for the official bags is linear in volume, with a cost of NT$ 5, or $0.15 per ten liter. Then during the observed period, the waste volumes fell by 29% in Taipei.
Some people may also argue that the economy needs to grow so overconsumption and garbage-generating are acceptable. However, any economic growth that generates at the expense of environmental damage is not sustainable. The population on earth is increasing so it is not surprising that the amount of garbage tend to go up too. But, lots of research has shown that waste management is one of the most important municipal services in today’s society. According to Word Bank, the amount of garbage generated by world cities is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tons by 2025. Globally, waste management costs will increase to about $375.5 billion in 2025. The global impacts of waste are growing fast.CITATION The12 l 1028 (The world bank).
While many people would argue that life is short so enjoying the moment is proper, it is irresponsible to grab one’s own benefit at expense of others’ cost. Governments have a range of policy options to encourage households to reduce the amount of their garbage. For example, Governments can promote public education to inform people about their options to reduce trash generation and increase recycling and composting. Besides, governments can set up pricing mechanisms, such as product charges which can stimulate consumer behavior to reduce waste generation and increase recycle. CITATION Hoo12 p 31 l 1028 (Hoornweg, Daniel; Bhada-Tata, Perinaz 31). Overall, can we afford to lose the planet we live on?
Works CitedBIBLIOGRAPHYEPA, US. “Municipal solid waste.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2013. 17 Nov. 2017. https://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017
Hai-Lan, Yang and Robert Innes. “Economic Incentives and Residential Waste Management in Taiwan: An Empirical Investigation.” Environmental & Resource Economics. Arizon, 2006. 490. vol. 37, no. 3, July 2007, pp. 489-519. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10640-006-9040-0. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017
Hoornweg, Daniel; Bhada-Tata, Perinaz. “What a waste: a gobal review of solid waste management.” Urban development series; knowledge papers. Washington, DC: World bank, 2012. 31. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/17388. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
Kulpinski, Dan. Human Footprint: Where Does All the Studd Go? n.d. 6 Decmber 2017. http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/human-footprint/trash-talk.html. 6 Accessed Dec. 2017.
Loki, Reynard; AlterNet;. “America Produces a Shocking Amount of Garbage: Find out Where Your State Ranks—and What You Can Do About It.” 14 Jul. 2016. AlterNet. https://www.alternet.org/environment/garbage-america-state-rankings-and-tips-reduce-waste. Accessed 9, Nov. 2017.
McLaughlin, Megan E. and John M. Halstead. “The Ubiquitous Plastic Bag — and What to Do.” Biocycle, vol. 57, no. 7, Aug. 2016, pp. 38-40. EBSCOhost, sinclair.ohionet.org:80/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=117597608&site=ehost-live. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017
The world bank. “What a Waste’ Report Shows Alarming Rise in Amount, Costs of Garbage.” 6 Jun. 2012. The world bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/06/06/report-shows-alarming-rise-in-amount-costs-of-garbage. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
US EPA. “Reducing Waste: What You Can Do.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Mar. 2017. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-waste-what-you-can-do#Tips for Home. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017