Updated August 20, 2021
Most people don’t think twice about trash once it hits the bin and gets hauled away to the landfill. The fact is that in the U.S. alone, approximately 250 million tons of trash enters the municipal waste system each year, according to 2010 statistics provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A large percentage of this trash is actually recyclable, reusable or shouldn’t actually be in the municipal waste system. The key is being smart about what you’re throwing away to make sure what makes it in the bin should actually be there.
Smarter Handling of Trash
Certain items shouldn’t enter your trash bin or dumpster, including electronics, chemicals, paint, and tires. Most major electronics retail stores accept used electronics for proper recycling. Motor oil and other fluids are accepted by oil change centers and most automobile dealerships. Tire dealers accept used tires for proper recycling.
Composting allows you to reduce the amount of trash that makes it into the garbage can, and it can actually help you save money in the long run. Compost is the best natural fertilizer out there, and best of all, it’s completely free!
Composting is easy. Collect all of your plant-based food scraps, used coffee grounds, egg shells, dryer sheets, vacuum residuals, hair and grass clippings. Mix these items with equal amounts of yard waste, such as twigs and dead leaves. Keep the mixture moist in a garbage can or similar container in a shady area, preferably outside. Stir the mixture a couple of times per week, and within a few months, you’ll have 100-percent organic fertilizer filled with nutrients.
Eco-Friendly Bulk Waste Removal
Handling large amounts of waste in an eco-friendly manner becomes a bit trickier. You may need to rent a dumpster during a home renovation, clean out, when selling/moving or any type of construction project.
The good news is that many dumpster rental companies are going green. When calling to rent a dumpster, ask if the company offers any type of trash recycling or clean load sorting. A clean load simply means the dumpster is filled with the same type of material rather than a mixture of items.
Sorting facilities can handle clean loads much more efficiently, so try to fill each dumpster load with one type of material to increase the odds the material gets recycled rather than just emptied into the local landfill.
Modern Landfills are Becoming Greener
The U.S. municipal landfill system is becoming greener, so that’s an encouraging step in the right direction. The garbage you can’t recycle, compost, or reuse can still be helpful to the environment at some landfills.
According to the EPA, there are currently 86 landfills across the country utilizing waste-to-energy (WTE) initiatives. These eco-friendly landfill facilities use various methods to extract energy from the waste sitting at the landfill. One method is capturing the methane gas naturally produced at landfills and turning it to a useful energy source.
The EPA states WTE landfill facilities turn 28 million tons of trash into approximately 2,720 megawatts of power each year. The U.S. is definitely heading in the right direction as far as waste removal goes, but it’s still up to each individual person to do their own part in preserving our environment. These simple tips can help you get started.