How much trash is there?
Getting an exact measurement of how much waste has ended up in nature is difficult. The very fact that nobody knows is already a problem on its own. But think about this. Out of the 1.3 billion tonnes of household waste generated per year, only about 258-368 million tons of trash end up in one of the 50 largest dumpsites. Where is the rest of it?
The fact is, waste has a nasty little habit of not staying in one place. As trash begins to decompose, harmful chemicals and toxins begin to leak. First, into the soil, then it spreads into water and air– the very things that all living things depend on for a healthy life. Dirty drinking water, spreading diseases, red-flag air pollution days… these are all related in some ways to the waste we produce.
As waste spreads, it eventually makes it’s way to the oceans. Every year, 8 million tons of garbage is added to our oceans, 80% of it from mainland waste. That’s like dumping over 112,123 Boeing 737-ER900 airplanes into the ocean…each year.
Improperly discarded waste touches every corner of our world, and every inhabitant. In 1988 and in 1999 in Bangladesh, thousands of people were killed by a flood from waste piling up in the sewers. On Midway Island, over 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, birds are dying by the thousands, their stomachs punctured by jagged pieces of trash.
Animals, natural resources, children… there are countless stories of the negative impacts of trash around the world.
Trash is not just litter, it’s also a slow, toxic poison
We’re being harmed in more subtle ways, too. Exposure to chemicals found in trash, especially plastics, have been linked to issues in reproductive health, obesity, increased allergies, diabetes and cancer.
When not disposed of properly, plastics will stick around… forever! In time, it will break down into smaller and smaller pieces, infiltrating into every aspect of our ecosystem. The marine environment is especially at risk from decomposing plastics, with many animal species swallowing these microscopic bits. And, when they’re not eating plastic, they’re entangled in it. Either way seems a particularly brutal way to treat wildlife.
If that’s not enough, consider that these toxic chemicals rapidly move up the food chain and end up in… you got it! Us.
Trash that ends up in the wrong places doesn’t just stay there, or even simply float around in the ocean. As it travels, it picks up pollutants, toxic ones, and spreads those along with it, leaving an actual trail of toxicity across the world.
Regrettably, even when trash is disposed of properly, the breakdown of organic materials in landfills produces astonishing amounts of methane, contributing to a rise in greenhouse gases and representing 12% of total global methane emissions (EPA 2006b).
Trash is a truth we can’t ignore
You can see why we care so much. And, why it’s our wish to involve you in our efforts.
We believe the best way to change both our waste and consumptive habits is to open up a conversation and get consumers all over the world to take action on some of these issues. Everything from refusing the plastic straw in your lunchtime soda to properly disposing of your electronics can begin a worldwide transformation.
What we want to do is to empower this change and make it faster by taking positive action together. We don’t have much time to lose. Learn more about how you can reduce waste in your life, starting today.