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Where does waste go?

waste

Locating trash in landfills, oceans, recycling plants, and more

As students at PRHS go about their day, they’re surrounded by items that will soon occupy landfills; from plastic binders, to paper lunch trays, to metal staples and paper clips, almost every material they use is doomed to someday become obsolescent and lay in a landfill. According to the New York Times, 300 tons of plastic are produced each year.

“Most synthetic polymers were not designed to disintegrate or disappear. On the contrary, they were meant to last as long as possible once they began replacing metals and glass in long-lasting things like automobiles and airplanes,” wrote Xiaozhi Lim in the NYT article, Designing the Death of a Plastic.

Every plastic that has been produced since its invention in 1907 is still in existence today, and will stay in our environment for up to 1,000 years, according to carbonfootprint.com.

Plastic is one of the many materials that produce a significant amount of CO2 through their manufacturing. One water bottle has a carbon footprint of three ounces of CO2. In ecology, “carbon footprinting” is used to measure the amount of carbon each person “emits” through their consumption of food, transportation, products, and everything else they use.

“I’m always conscious of where my waste could end up after it’s disposed,” said junior Mairin McNerney, who conserves her waste through using a reusable water bottle, never using styrofoam, and carrying around a reusable tote bag.

Most of the materials used by the US population end up either in a landfill, in the ocean, or recycled. Out of the 254 millions of tons of waste created in the US per year, 65.7 percent ends up in landfills, three percent ends up in the oceans, and 1.2 percent is recycled.

These numbers can be reduced through using reusable items, purchasing used clothes, repurposing materials, and reducing use of single-use items.

 

 

 

waste

Photo by Camden Tucker

Graphics by Sarah Jagger

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