U.S. Municipal Solid Waste

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In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal solid waste, MSW1, of which only 87 million tons were recycled or composted (“Municipal Solid Waste”, 1). This value, however, does not represent the total amount waste generated by the United States since MSW only accounts for 2 percent of total waste generated. As more trash is generated, space to construct more landfills becomes an issue. In order to reduce the amount of solid waste produced, the federal government must implement and enforce a new waste disposal method that emphasizes composting food waste.

To begin with, in the U.S., trash is most commonly sent to a landfill, unfortunately though, once it arrives there little sorting occurs. According to the EPA, “Nationally, food is the single most common material sent to landfills. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas” (“Cupertino Honored”). At a landfill, trash arriving is only screened for liquids in order to avoid the creation of leachate, or water that is contaminated from dissolved chemicals in garbage. Once screened, dumped, and covered, bacteria begin to decompose the trash and, as a result, release methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The fact is that landfills are ideally supposed to be used to bury garbage that is non-decomposable, however, with the garbage collection method that is currently in place across many states, all unsorted garbage is being sent there. In addition, “...traditional trash disposal not only wastes material that can enrich soil but accelerates climate change. Organic matter decom...

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