Waste, on the order of about 4.4 pounds a day per person, is the most tangible environmental impact we have in our daily lives. That adds up to 1,600 pounds a year per person in America! While recycling and composting have increased dramatically over the past several decades, nationally, almost two-thirds of all material discarded still goes to waste in landfills or incinerators. Throwing away valuable material translates into profound economic waste as well: Americans throw away $11 billion in packaging materials and $165 billion in food waste each year.
The environmental impacts of materials extend far beyond the landfill or incinerator. From raw materials acquisition to manufacturing, transport, use, and disposal, products have environmental consequences throughout their entire material lifecycle. The US EPA reports that 42 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions can be attributed to the provision of goods and food. Reducing the impact of waste requires us to be more conscientious consumers and also requires manufacturers to design products that are more easily reused, remanufactured, fixed, recycled, or composted.
Three easy steps to prevent waste are:
- Avoid disposable products
- Fix things that break
- Borrow and share things