According to the EPA, the total generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 was 292.4 million tons, or 4.9 pounds per person per day. Of the MSW generated, more than 146 million tons (50 percent) were sent to landfills. Analysis from The Global Footprint Network has concluded that it would take 5 Earths to support the human population if everyone’s consumption patterns were similar to the average American. The U.S., which is only 5% of the world’s population, generates 258 million tons of municipal solid waste every year (between 17 and 20% of the world’s waste). Solid waste impacts the environment, human health, and the economy. It is a constant contributing factor in how our economy operates. However, due to the linear structure of our consumption practices (things are made, used, then disposed of) its affects are displaced from us. Throwing something away, to us, means never having to see or think about it again.
But all waste goes somewhere. Let’s explore the various destinations of the products we use and dispose of regularly in our day to day lives.