Over the past century waste has become a major global environmental and social issue. An analysis carried out by Yale University’s researchers in 2015, established that every day five pounds of trash per person are disposed into landfills in the U.S. alone (Borenstein, S., 2015). Adding up to 1,825 pounds of annual trash that is being dumped by each individual. According to facts presented by The World Counts, a despairing amount of 2.12 billion tons of waste are produced every year worldwide; and if this entire garbage material was to be placed in trucks, these would span around the world a total of 24 times (The World Counts, 2017).
All this waste does not only crowd our limited spaces while making them look ugly and smell displeasing; landfills also bring problems related to toxins, leachate, greenhouse gases, amongst others. Trash that we usually throw away carries with it a lot of hazardous substances such as PVC, arsenic, mercury and lead to mention a few. These toxins frequently leach, and consequently contaminate our soils and groundwater. Leachate, on the other hand, is a highly toxic liquid residue that arises after water has filtered through the waste that has already broken down (Environment Victoria, 2017). Exposure to these toxins and hazardous substances do not only have a negative impact on the environment, but also on the human health. A study carried out in 2013 for instance managed to find out how communities living in areas close to special waste landfills were prone to health conditions such as congenital anomalies and respiratory diseases (Mattiello, A. & et al, 2013).
When it comes to greenhouse gases, Methane and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are the two that compose what is known as landfill gas in a 50:50 ratio (EPA, 2017). Methane however, is known to be a greenhouse gas that is at least 20 times more powerful than CO2; as it is a lot more effective when trapping heat in our planet’s atmosphere.
It is estimated that U.S. citizens recycle around 21.4% to 34.5% of their waste (Borenstein, S., 2015) and although this activity undoubtedly has its merits; it is also remains very costly and inefficient. Inefficient in the sense that it still requires the use of lots of water and energy, plus it is yet another source of contamination and pollution (Hutchinson, A., 2008).
A straightforward answer to the waste conundrum
But if neither throwing away more rubbish nor recycling are really the answer to maintaining our own and our natural world’s wellbeing, then what is the solution?
As funny as it may sound the solution takes us back to those good old times when we, the human race, still had not met “progress” in the form of redundant packaging and the numerous other superfluous disposable items. Many call the method precycling, which basically stands for eliminating trash before it has been created (Lee Ball, A., 2016). Others also know this transition as the Zero Waste movement; a movement that seeks to eliminate waste from our lives altogether.
Plastic bags are no longer necessary; one can simply bring his or her own reusable bags or an old-fashioned willow basket. Packaging is non-existent; because one’s own jars, bottles, tins and containers will do the trick. All of a sudden our regular high impact shopping is transformed into a conscious and responsible experience that benefits all. Who would have thought the solution would be this uncomplicated?
Where to find Zero Waste shops in the U.S
The rise in Zero Waste shops is being seen all over Europe and parts of the U.S. Nationally speaking one of the latest big stores that has currently been opened is The Zero Market in Denver, Colorado. Presently offering body and household products, containers, growlers and drinkers, plus books; this innovative shop will soon be opening a food-based market featuring fresh and local produce also. Other Zero waste shops around the country include:
By joining zero waste evolution you will immediately stop1,825 pounds of trash from going into a landfill every year. Your contribution to water contamination and air pollution will decrease right away and so will the greenhouse gases you emit. You won’t just become a protector of the planet’s natural wonders; you will also be a custodian of society and of your own health.
Borenstein, S. “The US Government Grossly Underestimated How Much Trash We Throw In Landfills” (2015) Science. Business Insider, 21 September 2015. Web. 1 September 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-study-twice-as-much-trash-put-in-landfills-than-estimated-2015-9
The World Counts “World Waste Facts” (2017) World Facts. The World Counts, 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/shocking_environmental_facts_and_statistics/world_waste_facts
Environment Victoria “The Problem with Landfill” (2017) Sustainable Living. Environment Victoria, 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. https://environmentvictoria.org.au/resource/problem-landfill/
Mattiello, A. & et al “Health Effects Associated with the Disposal of Solid Waste in Landfills and Incinerators in Populations Living in Surrounding Areas: A Systematic Review” International Journal of Public Health Volume 58, Issue 5 (2013) pp 725-735. Web. 1 September 2017. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00038-013-0496-8
EPA “Basin Information about Landfill Gas” (2017) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP). United States Environmental Protection Agency, August 9 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas
Hutchinson, A. “Is Recycling Worth It? PM Investigates its Economic and Environmental Impact” (2008) Science: Environment. Popular Mechanics, 12 November 2008. Web. 1 September 2017. http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a3752/4291566/
Lee Ball, A. “The Anti-Packaging Movement” (2016) Food. The New York Times, 14 March 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/14/t-magazine/food/precycling-food-packaging.html
BePakt “Index of Packaging-Free (Zero-Waste) Supermarkets and Grocery Shops” (2017) Packaging-Free Supermarkets. BePakt, 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. http://bepakt.com/packaging-free-supermarkets/list/
The Zero Market “Products” (2017) Featured Products. The Zero Market, 2017. Web. 1 September 2017. http://www.thezeromarket.com