American communities on average spend more money on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, according to the U.S. Census data on municipal budgets.
That makes us queasy.
Not long ago we posted about the waste generated every day in New York City – approximately 12,000 tons. Humes’ piece for the Journal helps us to visualize that amount of waste:
That’s like throwing away 62 Boeing 747 jumbo jets daily, or driving 8,730 new Honda Civics into a landfill each morning.
Many communities are looking at how they can reach zero waste. A very high percentage of “waste” is made up of recyclable materials. Thus, San Francisco plans to divert above 90% of the waste stream away from landfills by recycling all metals, glass, plastics and paper and composting all organic waste. Europe not only recycles but has also advanced an Extended Producer Responsibility approach, in which producers — not consumers— are responsible for dealing with their products when they’ve reached the end of their useful life. And as the stress on the Earth’s resources has increased, there has been greater consumer awareness of the life cycle of products and the need to consider more carefully the longer-term environmental impacts of our purchases.
We think it’s true, as sustainability consultant Peter Senge put it, that:
Kids today should grow up thinking that the stupidest thing in the whole world is to throw something away.