Americans contribute millions of tons in solid waste each year. While many have made strides to reduce the waste in landfills through recycling programs, others continue to contribute a massive amount of waste to our landfills every day. Considering how heavily packaged processed foods are and how we use paper products as if there is no tomorrow, it is no wonder landfills are jam-packed.
Here is a challenge: go home tonight, whether it is your own campus dorm or off-campus apartment, and look into your trash can. Make a list of everything you see and separate everything into groups of perishable and nonperishable items.
Most likely you have a list of reusable goods. Items ranging from plastic bottles to old rags could be recycled or reused. We throw away many items that can still be used and take America’s ability to mass produce for granted as we discard more and more every day.
Think about the next time you wash your car. Too bad you threw those old shirts away.
If you realized the shirt you own with a hole in it could be used as a cleaning utensil, you have just taken part in a national movement to help the environment.
Those plastic bottles you threw away would have been ideal for watering plants in the morning.
Tony Burgess, an assistant professor in the College of Science and Engineering, said analyzing what you throw away can help pinpoint what steps need to be taken in order to become conscientious of what we put into our landfills.
“One of the most effective things a student group could do is sort the waste collected at TCU,” Burgess said. “This would show part of the ‘ecological footprint’ of our campus community.”
Doing your part does not require a national movement or life-altering sacrifices. Begin by thinking twice about what you discard as waste.
You can also help by purchasing manufactured goods with less packaging or look for the recyclable label on the items you buy as well. Using recycled products or items with less packaging ultimately results in less waste.
Bottles, paper, glass, plastics, steel, boxes, cans and yard trimmings – yes yard trimmings – are all a part of America’s waste.
Clippings and leaves racked up from the backyard, along with certain food scraps, can be used as compost on lawns, in gardens and in potting soil for house plants.
Burgess has found this method not only environmentally friendly but also effective.
“Composting food wastes and using them in the vegetable garden is one solution,” Burgess said.
Integrating source reduction into our every day lives will help reduce waste. Many communities, as well as corporations, have incorporated recycling programs into their daily routine. The fewer resources we waste, the smaller our landfills and the more resources we will have in the future.
Reusing and recycling helps conserves energy, reduce sources and reduce pollution.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper makes up 40.4 percent of trash – in all that is 71.6 million tons. I’m no tree-hugger, but I think we could do a better job in preserving our trees.
Not only is waste disposal costly for the environment but the economic expenditures of waste disposal continue to increase.
Burgess is aware of the advantages in recycling but understands it can be costly. When he taught at Biosphere 2, transporting recyclable goods became too expensive. But that didn’t stop him.
“Consequently we concluded that the best we could do was to reduce consumption and reuse as much as we could,” Burgess said.
While many think it is all rubbish in the end, recycling can help save limited resources and ourselves.
Unless people realize Mother Nature cannot clean up our mess, we will live in a pigsty hazardous enough to become our end.
Burgess said that although landfill overflow is inevitable in urbanized areas, we must take part in cleaning up the environment or adapt to a polluted and waste infested habitat.
“My advice to a person who feels that it is not important to conserve energy and treat waste sustainably would be to learn how to insulate yourself from the consequences of pollution and energy shortages that will affect much of humanity during the foreseeable future,” Burgess said.
Roxanna Latifi is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Fort Worth.