Dallas, Texas is one of the biggest producers of garbage in the country, carting approximately 2.2 million tons of waste to landfills each year. City officials recently announced a “zero-waste plan” to try and recycle or reuse virtually all of the city’s municipal waste.
The Dallas zero-waste plan isn’t a quick fix. In fact, the only other Texas City with a similar type of plan in place, Austin, doesn’t expect to reach its zero-waste goal until 2040. Dallas has similar expectations. City officials expect the population of Dallas to increase by about 40 percent over the next decade, so landfill space will become increasingly scarce. This isn’t an isolated problem; most major cities across the U.S. are facing similar issues.
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What is a Zero-Waste Plan?
The name is somewhat misleading. A “zero-waste plan” doesn’t actually mean a city is necessarily trying to eliminate 100 percent of the waste entering landfills, although that would be the ultimate goal.
Dallas’ goal is to redirect 84 percent of the garbage currently carted off to landfills. The city of Austin has set its sights a bit higher at 90 percent. The remaining 16 percent of the municipal waste stream is deemed as non-recyclable or reusable. However, current waste-to-energy technology would allow this non-recyclable material to be disposed of in a more eco-friendly manner than simply burying it in the ground.
City officials are still in the process of drafting a final proposal for the city council to vote upon. The most recent proposal outlines a two-year plan aimed at jumpstarting a recycling plan for apartment complexes and businesses, two of the biggest waste producing entities in the city.
Some of the ideas being tossed around include mandatory recycling at businesses and apartment buildings, eliminating plastic bags and banning foam coffee cups. These changes would definitely be a step in the right direction; however, it won’t be easy to get every citizen onboard with the changes.
Sustainability Sweeping the Country
Dallas is the latest city to jump aboard the green bandwagon. Other cities across the U.S. have adopted zero-waste plans and are already working toward a more sustainable future. A few other cities with a plan in place or in the works include Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Boulder, Seattle, Pasadena and Wilmington.
It is theoretically possible to achieve zero-waste in America. In fact, Germany is already doing it. According to 2008 statistics from Columbia University and also published in the book Garbologyby Edward Humes, Germany sends 0-zip-zilch percent of its trash to landfills – 66 percent of waste is recycled or composted while the remaining 34 percent is incinerated at waste-to-energy facilities.
The U.S. produces far more trash than Germany, so it’s a bit more daunting to reroute all of the 250 million tons of waste produced each year to recycling, composting and waste-to-energy facilities. However, times are changing; Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the “three R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Living a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle is becoming mainstream. So, expect the trend toward waste-reduction, recycling and waste-to-energy to continue.
Via: The New York Times