Have you ever wondered how many resources we as humans consume during our lifetime on this planet? We are consuming resources quicker than the earth itself can replace them and if everybody in the world lived like we do in developed countries, we’d need at least 4 planet earths to meet our demands and needs.
We have found some really interesting and alarming facts about the damage we are doing to our planet and wanted to share them with you so we can all be more mindful about how we treat our environment.
The waste we generate
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So, how much waste do we generate during our lifetime? We’re talking about food, plastic, waste, diapers, soaps, deodorants, clothes, etc. When we break it down, the numbers are alarming:
At the moment, there are no statistics available that measure the entire planet’s garbage. However, if we take into consideration that the U.S. makes up about 4% of the world’s population, this equals the entire planet’s yearly garbage production of up to 4 or 5 billion tons every year.
This translates to an average American generating 4.3 lb of garbage every day. This means 1569.5 lb for each person every year (4.3×365 = 1569.5). With the U.S. population now at 285 million, this equals 447307.5 million lb of garbage.
How long does it take for all the garbage to decompose?
The majority of trash that we produce ends up getting sorted to be sent to landfills. These landfills generate the second biggest source of methane emissions in the world. The numbers of methane emissions grow over time and it is becoming more and more dangerous for the environment. This is because methane has the ability to trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere 25 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide does.
So the question is: How long does it take for the trash to decompose after it has been thrown away? Below we have the amount of time it really takes for various types of waste to decompose in landfills along with some interesting statistics as well.
1. Plastic waste
Plastic, in general, is a very common product that we use in our everyday lives but it’s a huge problem for the environment. Each year we use roughly 1.6 million drums of oil just for manufacturing plastic water bottles. Furthermore, plastic waste is one of the worst types of waste because it takes longer to decompose. Normally for plastic, it takes up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills.
2. Disposable diapers
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Every year, approximately 20 billion disposable diapers are disposed of. Diapers take roughly 250 — 500 years to decompose in landfills. Additionally, they make up 2% of Europe’s solid waste. It is predicted that waste from Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP) will continue to increase instead of decrease because of the demographics associated with them and their convenience factor.Naturally, an average baby will use up to 6,000 diapers before they are toilet trained. This translates to over 2 tons of waste being sent to landfills. Currently, ecological programs offer diaper recycling to help combat this issue.
3. Aluminum cans
Each day there are only 120,000 aluminum cans being reprocessed in the US which makes the recycling rate only 58.1%. This is considerably low and there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to bring awareness to metal recycling and raise the reprocessing rate of aluminum. For example, product design that can improve disassembly and aid in physical separation of aluminum products can improve the managing of the recycling business in developing countries.
In a 3 month period, there are enough metal materials thrown away to help build an entire city. And it takes roughly 80 — 200 years for aluminum to decompose in landfills.
Glass recycling is a very common practice and a lot of communities incorporate glass bottle collection programs for recycling in their cities. Recycled glass is usually more popular due to the fact that it needs less energy to process, hence, it is more cost-effective than virgin glass. In general, glass is also very easy to recycle due to the fact that it is made out of sand.
Recycling glass is a very easy process, it’s done by simply breaking it down into tiny pieces and then melting it. Nevertheless, there is a lot of glass being thrown away in landfills and it takes millions of years to decompose which translates to almost never. When it comes to recycling glass there are a few important facts to take into consideration.
5. Paper waste
Based on volume alone, paper products take up the most space in landfills all over the world. It takes approximately 2 — 6 weeks to decompose, which is considerably faster than other materials. However, because of the large amounts of it we send to landfills, if everyone started recycling paper it would save a lot of space. Additionally, this can reduce energy and consumption of natural resources used when making non-recyclable paper.
6. Food waste
Based on weight alone, food is the heaviest and largest waste in landfills. The time needed for food to decompose usually depends on the type of food it is. For instance, a lemon peel can take up to 6 months to decompose, whereas a banana peel can take up to 4 weeks. Furthermore, when it comes to recycling food, having the right container is very important as well as knowing how to classify food together according to the time it needs to decompose.
Here are some very common items found in large amounts in landfills along with the amount of time they require to decompose:
Please let us know your thoughts about waste, recycling, and environmental health. What do you do about it? Do you have any tips for us as well? Please let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this with your friends and family in order to educate them and inspire them about recycling.