Recycling Programs Work in America but Need More Customer Support

The United States is the most wasteful country on the planet, since its inception we've found that recycling programs work in America but they need the support of customers to increase the power of recycling and decrease waste.

| December 2000/January 2001

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    It's no secret that the United States is the most wasteful country on the planet.

  • 183-058-1

America's garbage dilemma comes around, recycling programs work in America but need more customer support to eliminate the amount of waste we produce on a daily basis. 

To understand the national obsession with saving our garbage we have only to look to the pages of the Seguin Gazette, a newspaper in South Texas. "Nothing is junk — save all scrap metal so it can be recycled," a reporter urges. "In multicar families use only one car . . . and take up walking. [Do] your grocery shopping twice a week instead of every day, and if you live close to the market area walk and take your own basket." The story would read like a how-to brochure on environmentally sustainable living in the 21st century — if it weren't an announcement for the War Effort, circa 1942.

During World War II the fact that saving empty toothpaste tubes would keep the country's water and air clean wasn't of imminent concern. Recycling for the war was simple: Save now, have a better world to live in later. Sixty years later, has the message changed so much?

The Battle of the Waste Bulge

It's no secret that the United States is the most wasteful country on the planet, recycling programs work in America but need even more support to eliminate the waste we create daily. We dispose of 210 million tons of municipal waste every year, and the yearly costs of that disposal is just shy of $45 billion. Combine residential and business garbage with the truckloads of industrial waste produced in the U.S. and we have an annual pile of trash weighing 12 billion tons. Not surprisingly, what we do with our detritus has become a war of its own.

America's most recent wake-up call to the mess it was making came in 1987, when a trash barge called the Mobro 4000 motored up and down the Eastern seaboard looking for a landfill in which to dump 3,200 tons of New York State's garbage. During thousands of miles of fruitless wandering (the Mobro eventually returned to port, still fully loaded), trash became a headline attraction in newspapers and television stations all over the country.

While waste was news, each story prompted more and more people to question the ethics behind throwing away so much at one time. In 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the issue seriously enough to recommend that 25% of municipal trash be recycled by the end of a five-year program.

1/14/2008 8:07:31 PM

I have a question regarding the author, Sam Martin. I am doing a research project and would like to know what position Sam has on this staff or what his credentials are. This way, when I speak about some of the things he mentioned in this article, I can refer to a valid source.

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