Disposable products are everywhere– they may even be in your house right now. The convenience of these everyday products has led to a surge in popularity, but at what cost? Does the accessibility and convenience outweigh the toll of these one-time-use products?
There are many uses for disposable items, especially life-saving ones such as medical grade gloves, which are an absolute necessity, but other disposable items are considered to be more of a luxury. Disposable bottles and cups, for example, are not as necessary as medical grade products, but they are readily available for buyers. We do not necessarily need to use plastic water bottles or paper cups, but it can save us time and energy. The same goes for plastic bags, paper towels, hygiene products (pads, razors, etc.), garbage bags, and plastic straws, which are just a few disposable products off an exceptionally long list that are used each and every day by consumers. These products have reusable, eco-friendly substitutes, but they are not used as often compared to the not-so-friendly alternative.
With that in mind, there have been a handful of studies done by the Environmental Protection Agency to find out how much MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) we are producing. (3) According to a study done by the EPA, in 2013 Americans produced about 254 million tons of trash that year (1). In another study done in 2014, the amount of MSW produced by Americans rose to 258 million tons of trash, on a daily basis, a whopping 4.4 pounds of trash per person (2). In 2013 and 2014, there were around 317 million people in America. For every person, there are 4.4 lbs of trash, which means 1,606 lbs of trash each year for one person, which is roughly the same weight as an average adult female cow (4). Putting that into perspective, that means that there were around 317 million cows worth of trash produced in America in 2013 and 2014.
There are ways to reduce our waste though, recycling MSW (or at least recycling the ones that are recyclable) can prevent millions of tons of material from being wasted (1). This also has the potential to reduce over 180 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere (2). Recycling and using alternatives to normal disposable items has the potential to reduce tremendous amounts of the carbon footprint left behind by our waste.
(1) “Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste- Municipal Solid Waste.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/.
(2) “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/advancing-sustainable-materials-management-0#Materials.
(3) Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is everyday products that are used and then discarded, which is also known as trash.
(4) “U.S and World Population Clock.” United States Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/popclock/.