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The US Produces Nearly 5 Pounds of Trash Per Day Per Person

Summary:
Global Leader in TrashThe US is the Global Leader in Trash Production.At 4.9 pounds of trash per person, per day, the U.S. is the most wasteful country on the planet. Of the 292.4 million tons of refuse Americans generated in 2018, half was buried in landfills while another 32% was recycled or composted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The rest was burned (the preferred term being “combusted”) to generate electricity.Over the past three decades, the rate of U.S. recycling and composting has more than doubled. During that same period, however, the number of available landfills shrunk by about 74%. Exporting Garbage Recycling may have doubled, but that's from a very low level.Garbage exports went to zero thanks to Trump's trade war with China.Since China stopped

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Global Leader in Trash

The US is the Global Leader in Trash Production.

At 4.9 pounds of trash per person, per day, the U.S. is the most wasteful country on the planet. Of the 292.4 million tons of refuse Americans generated in 2018, half was buried in landfills while another 32% was recycled or composted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The rest was burned (the preferred term being “combusted”) to generate electricity.

Over the past three decades, the rate of U.S. recycling and composting has more than doubled. During that same period, however, the number of available landfills shrunk by about 74%. 

Exporting Garbage

Recycling may have doubled, but that's from a very low level.

Garbage exports went to zero thanks to Trump's trade war with China.

Since China stopped importing U.S. recyclables in 2017, cities have been scrambling to find new markets for plastics and other materials that would typically be repurposed, said Mike Ewall, a Philadelphia-based environmental activist and executive director of the Energy Justice Network.

Environmentalists says don't burn it and China will no longer take it.

Meanwhile, the number of landfills are shrinking. Many of the ones in existence are very poorly managed. 

Even double-lining is questionable. Single lining of landfills is a disaster in waiting.

Exacerbating the concerns of local residents isn’t just what’s going into landfills, but what’s coming out. According to Nichols, garbage imported for disposal contributes to leachate, a liquid that forms when rain water filters through garbage. The result is a toxic soup that can include mercury, arsenic and lead. 

Maine doesn’t test leachate for PFAS levels at commercial or state-owned landfills like Juniper Ridge, Nichols said, leaving the Penobscot tribe in the dark about the level of toxicity of the leachate being discharged into the river. The Maine DEP didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Landfills typically apply liners, or barriers made of plastic or clay, to prevent toxin from leaking out. Most states require a two-liner system, but Maine only requires one, said Peter Blair, an attorney with environmental nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation. “All landfills eventually have leachate seep out once liners start to disintegrate,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if it will leak, but rather when.” 

Fully Compliant With Loose Standards

In a statement, Casella Waste Systems said the Juniper Ridge Landfill is “fully compliant” with Maine environmental regulations.

Casella collects a “tipping fee” from ReEnergy for taking its waste. Fees for construction and demolition debris vary, but range from $33 to $95 per ton, according to the state’s environmental agency. 

If You Cannot Export to China 

The US Produces Nearly 5 Pounds of Trash Per Day Per Person

In Chester, Pennsylvania, residents live with the fallout of imported waste in the air they breathe. The small town of 33,000 is home to the Covanta Delaware County combustion plant. More than one-third of municipal solid waste accepted by the facility last year came from Delaware.

And in Maine, more than 90% of the 230,000 tons of construction waste ReEnergy accepted in 2019 came from out-of-state.

Cost of Recycling

In the beachside resort town of Ocean City, Maryland, recycling was discontinued in 2009 after the financial crisis crippled its budget. 

“The cost to recycle doesn’t make financial sense for many municipalities,” Changaris of the waste industry group said. “But it has to go somewhere.”

The big problem with recycling, as I see it is trying to do too much. 

Most recycling makes little sense but clean aluminum cans do, and perhaps clean pre-separated other things.

But to dump everything together in one bin, coupled with over-zealous people attempting to recycle the last bit of paper covered with cheese or tomato sauce makes a mess out of the whole bin.

And where is the message on how to recycle properly?

What About Styrofoam?

Waste companies give you bins but they never tell you what to do with things like Styrofoam. 

In case you didn't know, in the vast majority cities, Styrofoam does not belong in your curb side recycling bin.

If you take that cardboard shipping box padded with Styrofoam and crush it all down in the bin, you just screwed up. 

You have to go out of your way to find a center that will take the stuff. 

Where to Recycle Styrofoam

I just looked up Where to Recycle Styrofoam.

Styrofoam that ends up in landfills does not break down at all. And although it only makes up roughly 2% of waste by weight, it takes up a whopping 30% in volume of overall solid waste, primarily due to its widespread use in product packaging.

A quick phone call to your local recycling center or waste management company will allow you to quickly curb some of that waste if, in fact, they accept EPS. Since expanded polystyrene is also made up of carcinogenic chemicals keeping it out of our landfills whenever possible is of great importance.

I was very aware of all this and have been since college, decades ago.

Question of the Day

How many confuse recycling Styrofoam with recycling plastic?

And if your plastic is covered with cheese, well guess what?

I am pretty meticulous about putting in the bin what belongs. But if the practice is not widespread, it is worse than useless because costs go up but the garbage heads to the landfill anyway. 

My Degree

I got a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois in 1976. 

I studied leachates, landfills, liners, and recycling. My first job was for a private firm working on a contract for the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Chicago. 

Almost No Progress

For all the amazing progress in nearly every other aspect of life, we are still using one liner landfills and we still do not know how to handle Styrofoam peanuts.

I would much rather see genuine progress in this area than the political meme of the day, manmade global warming due to CO2.

Carbon Addendum

Due to the inevitable pushback by the climate fearmongers regarding the above paragraph, let's discuss carbon.

Let's say we accept that manmade CO2 is a problem and the scientists are 100% correct. Let's further assume that none of the lies and data manipulations by various scientists never happened. 

Finally, let's ignore all of the idiotic predictions that have been made allegedly based on scientific analysis.

What's left are idiotic proposals from Al Gore, AOC and others cost $50 trillion to $90 trillion.

I have yet seen a CO2 plan that is politically acceptable with a reasonable price. All the catastrophic predictions have been absurdly wrong and in my opinion purposely so to stir alarm. 

For what? In an absurd plan to stop the oceans from rising 8 inches or a foot or whatever in the next century when the fact of the matter is the US only produces 14% of the carbon.

50 Years of Dire Predictions

In case you missed it Let's Review 50 Years of Dire Climate Forecasts and What Actually Happened.

Here's point #21 of dire forecasts made in 2014. "We have 500 days to Avoid Climate Chaos" said then Sec of State John Kerry and Biden's current climate czar. 

Scientifically speaking, I have a question: Have 500 days passed? 

All of these hype stories are actual lies to get the politically correct agenda going now. 

CO2 Stats

  • Please note that the US reduced its carbon footprint from 6.13 billion tons in 2007 to 5.28 billion tons in 2019.
  • Meanwhile, China increased its footprint from 6.86 billion tons in 2019 to 10.17 billion tons in 2019.
  • In the same timeframe, global output rose from 31.29 billion tons to 36.44 billion tons.
  • In 2007, the US accounted for 19.6% of the total global carbon footprint.
  • In 2019, the US accounted for only 14.5% of the total global footprint.

Key Questions

  1. How much money are we willing to spend to reduce our 14.5% and falling percentage of carbon emissions?
  2. What would it cost to cut that by half in 10 years?
  3. Assuming we could cut that in half in 10 years, what would it do to total carbon output?
  4. By what force do we get China, India, and all the developing economies in the Mideast and Africa to reduce their carbon output?
  5. Assuming we achieve number 4 peacefully by some sort of economic buyout like cap-and-trade what is the cost to the US?
  6. What about inflation?
  7. Sure, China is producing goods for the US and EU but do we want that to stop? When? Why? How? Cost?
  8. Does not China, India, Africa, etc., have the right to improve their standards of living?
  9. What do the above points imply about the US standard of living?
  10. How the hell do we pay for this?

Accepting Science

This is not a matter of "accepting science" as the climate fearmongers say.

It's a matter of coming up with a reasonable plan to do something sensible about it, knowing full well the oceans are going to keep rising for the next 100 years anyway!

Understanding My Point

Until someone can put a realistic price on Climate Change that addresses my questions above, forgive me for not agreeing that a total rise in the ocean of 3 inches in the last 20 years is the existential threat of our time.

The major irony in the climate hype is that if we focused on the environment first and CO2 second we would be doing something for both while addressing the immediate concern now.

Mish

Mike Shedlock
Mike Shedlock (Mish) is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management (http://www.sitkapacific.com/). Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.

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