Texas Trash- Too Big to Handle?

The waste that's consuming our land and our lives.

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Over our heads?


The United States flourishes as a nation where resources are plentiful. Food, cars, luxury items and anything you can imagine is readily available to consumers and shipping services have made life even more convenient for US citizens. How often do consumers consider the impact of immediate gratification? Research about the mental effects is starting to be recognized, but should we consider the environmental effects of our quick to gratify-hard to keep happy society. Americans are more wasteful than ever before, throwing away the equivalent of 63,000 garbage trucks worth of goods a day. Most people, shocked by this number, feel that they don’t know what the other option is. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources and lifestyle change guides that are not hard to follow.

Put into perspective, Americans throw away enough recyclable goods to fill a football stadium each day. The American Air fleet could be rebuilt within 3 months with the amount of recyclable metal thrown away. When something is put in the garbage, it’s as if you are freed from that item and your connection with it goes away. That response needs to be changed. Every item thrown into the garbage still exists as a footprint on the land. Each American dies with approximately 9,000 pounds of trash left as a legacy. Not every item is recyclable, but, as a nation, we can cut down on the amount of waste we produce and change the mentality attached to it.

Texas is one of the top waste-producing states in America. The “bigger is always better” mentality is prominent in everything we do as Texans. Many Texans are surprised to learn that the 2015 average waste for a Texas resident was 6.7 pounds of waste, per person, per day. When it comes to our waste, the attention Texas has received for landfill management has recently been negative. In 1988 Texas had 750 operating landfills and only 21 capacity years remaining through all the landfill space combined. Since then, with better waste management techniques and improved compacting science, Texas has cut down to only 199 operating landfill and projected 56 capacity years. Capacity years, however, has not been a sustainable number and changes each year. Due to the inconsistency of waste being produced.

Landfills are largely what we envision when we think of waste management. The waste that is improperly disposed of has an even more detrimental impact on the communities and environment we live in than landfills. Cans and trash disregarded to our local rivers create a harmful environment for marine plant and animal life. Litter tossed carelessly from passing cars furthers the industrial damage in urban areas and takes away from the already disappearing natural beauty of the land.

With more attention being brought to the issue of waste management, litter and the mass destruction of land and natural resources, nationwide- initiatives to promote zero-waste lifestyles and better recycling habits are slowly being recognized. Central Texas has been a strong advocate for limiting waste. San Antonio, Austin and Dallas are all making strides to become zero-waste cities. Accompanied by fines for improper recycling plastic bag policies, these cities have also provided more outlets to recycle, including lists of recyclable materials, composting instructions.

Getting access to materials and educational resources for recycling and limiting waste isn’t difficult. The problem comes from giving people reasons to make the change to begin recycling. Citizens largely don’t think that small-scale waste from their homes will impact them or their families in their lifetime. Although the risk of landfills filling up has dropped, the economical aspect of recycling practices has become king in discussing the reasons to make the change. According to an article by Utah University about recycling impacts in America, waste disposal costs Americans $10 billion a year. That money, instead of going to waste, literally, should be invested in enriching the lives of American to foster more mindful, contributing citizens.




Wasteful Thinking- Texas Numbers




...

Plastic

One ton of Plastic recycled saves:

  • 5,774 kWh of electricity
  • 685 gallons of oil
  • 98 million Btu's of energy
  • 30 cubic yards of landfill space
  • ...

    Aluminum

    One ton of Aluminum recycled saves:

  • 14,000kWh of electircity
  • 1,663 gallons of oil
  • 237.6 million Btu's of energy
  • 10 cubic yards of landfill space
  • Steel

    One ton of Steel recycled saves:

  • 642kWh of electricity
  • 76 gallons of oil
  • 10.9 million Btu's of energy
  • 4 cubic yards of landfill space
  • 2,500 pounds of iron ore
  • ...

    Glass

    One ton of Glass recycled saves:

  • 42 kWh of electricity
  • 714.3 Btu's of energy
  • 2 cubic yards of landfill space
  • 7.5 pounds of air pollutants for being released
  • ...

    Paper

    One ton of Paper recycled saves:

  • 4,100 sWh of electricity
  • 54 million Btu's of energy
  • 4.6 cubic yds of landfill space
  • 7,000 gallons of water
  • 17 trees
  • Cardboard

    One ton of Cardboard recycled saves:

  • 390 kWh hours of electricity
  • 46 gallons of oil
  • 6.6 million Btu's of energy
  • 9 cubic yards of landfill space


  • Texas Landfill Data by Region

    Waste Per CapitaTotal Waste PopulationOperating Landfills