Garbage isn’t something most of us think about every day, but managing the nearly 790,000 tons we generate and is collected by the Philadelphia’s Sanitation Division each year, has every day environmental and economic consequences. While Philadelphia is making gains in the effort to reduce the amount of waste produced each year and to improve the way we deal with garbage, there is still work to do.
What’s in the Waste Stream?
The amount of garbage, called municipal solid waste, Americans generate has inched upwards since 1960, from 88 million tons to over 229 million tons in 2001, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).
In 1960, each American produced about 2.7 pounds of garbage per day. By 2001, this amount had stabilized at 4.4 pounds a person each day after rising throughout the 1990s. That means 6.6 million pounds of trash is being generated by the population of Philadelphia each day.
Recycle and Reuse
Recycling helps create the products we use everyday-from soda containers to writing paper, carpet, and automobiles. Recycling mines valuable materials out of garbage to make new products. That’s what makes it one of the oldest environmental practices and one of the most beneficial.
According to the U.S. EPA, recycling:
- Conserves natural resources to help sustain the environment.
- Reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
- Saves energy and prevents pollution caused by the extraction and processing of virgin materials.
Recycling is also, one of the easiest ways to reduce your personal contribution to global warming. Recycled items take up to 95% less energy to produce goods than producing that same item from raw materials. If everyone recycled half of their household waste, we would save 2,400 of carbon dioxide emissions each year per person.