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What’s in a landfill?

2 December 2009

If you were to guess what took up the most space in a landfill, what would it be?  What about paper?

Yep, paper accounted for 31% of waste in landfills in 2008, according to the EPA’s report.  And guess what’s next?  Food scraps at 12.7%, followed by plastics at 12%.

The good news is 33% of the municipal solid waste generated was recovered or recycled. “Nationally, we recycled and composted 83 million tons of municipal solid waste.  This provides an annual benefit of 182 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced, comparable to the annual GHG emissions from more than 33 million passenger vehicles.”

While that is an impressive figure, it is also bad news that only 33% of these materials in our waste stream, which are easily recyclable or compostable, were recovered.  Not even half of aluminum cans (soda bottles) are recycled!  Recycling can have a huge impact, not just through lowering green house gas emissions, but by eliminating the need to extract more materials from the land, or use more oil.  All plastics are made from petroleum products – look at how much you have around the house and see if it can be recycled.  Check with your trash collector to learn about recycling and composting programs too!


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