Where Does Our Garbage Go?
Every year, humans generate 2.9 trillion pounds worth of waste in the form of rubbish. That’s the same amount of weight as about 7,000 Empire State buildings combined.
However, despite the fact that we can find garbage almost wherever there is evidence of human activity, there is not nearly as much of it as one would imagine there to be given the absurd quantity that we generate each year.
Therefore, the issue that emerges is: where exactly does all of our rubbish go? In this essay, we will make an effort to explain what happens to all of the garbage that we toss away.
Taking it Piece by Piece
A quick quiz: what kind of garbage accounts for the majority of the solid waste that we generate each year? The correct response is not plastic since it only makes up around 10% of the total.
The organic stuff that we don’t consume makes up the largest percentage of our waste, which accounts for 46% of the total. This includes both perishable and nonperishable food items that are thrown away.
Paper constitutes around 17% of all garbage, making it the second-largest kind of trash after plastic.
On the other hand, since more publications and workplace papers are being digitized, paper makes up a decreasing percentage of the overall amount of waste across the world.
The Trip: From Right Outside Your Front Door All the Way to the Destination
When you put your trash out at the curb for collection, it will be carried to the landfill by the local garbage collector. At the landfill, some of the recyclable material will be separated out and sent to recycling facilities either in the area or in other countries.
A considerable amount of recyclable waste from across the globe used to be sent to China for processing a few years ago. Approximately 70 percent of the country’s total recyclable plastic came from imports.
However, since there are now more stringent controls on what kinds of garbage may be brought into the country, a significant portion of the waste that can be recycled is being exported to nations that do not have the infrastructure to handle it.
This is a problem. As a direct consequence of this, an increasing proportion of the rubbish produced around the globe is winding up in landfills or being flushed down drains into waterways.
Coming full circle, in order to create space in our landfills for additional rubbish, the non-recyclable solid waste that is already there is simply compacted and plowed over.
In some landfills, the methane that is produced as a byproduct of the garbage’s decomposition is collected and then transported to gas power plants to be utilized in the generation of energy.
There is also the possibility of sending some of the solid trash to be burned at facilities that convert waste into electricity. These facilities are not the same as the garbage incinerators that were commonplace a few decades ago.
These more recent power plants, in contrast to their more antiquated predecessors, first remove potentially dangerous materials and then recycle what can be salvaged before burning the remaining waste.
Before being discharged into the environment, the gases are passed through a filter to remove any potentially harmful chemicals. The ash and metal that remain after the fire are collected and then sold to manufacturing facilities, where they are put to use as raw materials in a variety of the facilities’ products.
However, owing of the high expenses involved in the construction of such facilities (the usual cost of constructing a plant is 440 million dollars yearly), only a select number of wealthy regions are able to treat waste in this manner. This encompasses nations such as Sweden as well as states in the United States such as California.
Now that we’ve circled back around to the landfill, some of the organic waste that was left behind may be separated out and turned into compost. The garbage that has been composted will, as time passes, decompose organically and turn into a soil that is rich in nutrients and may be used as fertilizer.
The Current Direction
The amount of waste that is recycled throughout the United States continues to rise at an impressive rate. It was in the year 1990 that the entire amount of waste that was still left in the landfill reached its highest point, and ever since then, it has been on a long-term slow decrease. There is also evidence of this pattern in a great number of other OECD nations.
The Bigger, Gloomier Bigger
While the amount of rubbish that isn’t recycled is slowly going down in many affluent nations, it is crucial to keep in mind that a major chunk of it is the consequence of some of the waste being shipped to poor countries. This is something that has to be remembered.
As was previously mentioned, the fact that these countries do not possess the appropriate facilities to process it as well as the fact that they are increasing their own trash production as a result of the growth in the economy means that on a net global scale, solid waste pollution is increasing, putting both people’s lives and the lives of various species of wildlife in jeopardy.
In addition, despite the advancements in technology, investment in waste power plants has, for the most part, come to a complete halt in many regions of the globe. Since 1995, there has been just one facility of this kind to become operational inside the United States.
The outlook for the not-too-distant future is likely to be dismal due to the fact that a rising proportion of the globe’s ever-increasing solid waste is being deposited in landfills that are accessible to the public or is winding up in the oceans of the world.
Questions That Are Often Put to Rest
Which nation generates the most amount of waste?
It’s unlikely that anybody will be surprised by the response to this question. The United States of America is now in the awful position of being the nation that generates the most garbage out of all the countries in the world.
The typical American produces the equivalent of one month’s worth of their own body weight in waste on a daily basis, which comes to 2.6 pounds of rubbish per person.
Which nation generates the most waste on a per capita basis?
When measured on a per-capita basis, the picture looks quite different, with the typical American being nowhere near the top 10 trash producers in the world.
Kuwait is the nation with the world’s most wasteful population; each citizen there throws out an astounding 12.6 pounds of garbage each and every single day.
How Many Years Does It Take for Garbage to Disintegrate?
Garbage is made up of a wide variety of components, each of which breaks down at a unique pace. Food products that are organic may decompose anywhere from weeks to months, while packaging like milk cartons might take years.
Batteries and other forms of electrical equipment may take more than a century to degrade completely. While certain materials, like plastic, won’t be completely decomposed for numerous generations to come.