Environmental Impact In 30 years If Recycling And Reusing Efforts Aren’t Increased

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has been collecting waste data for almost 40 years now. The most current data from 2018 reports that America:

  1. Generated 293 MILLION of garbage in one year.
  2. That’s almost 5 lbs per person per day!
  3. 69 million tons of that were recycled.
  4. 25 million tons were composted.
  5. 33 million tons were turned into usable energy.


To instantly summarize it for you:

  • Fossil fuels disappear sooner = this energy source will be completely eliminated.
  • Garbage piles up = disease, unsanitary conditions, toxic off-gassing.
  • Greenhouse gases increase = worse climate change fallout.
  • Landfills increase in number = every town everywhere would need a landfill. Garage would almost literally be in your backyard.
  • Natural resources diminish = demand for virgin material would increase exponentially. For example the growth of new trees would not be able to outpace the rate at which we cut down trees.


In another 30 years, the world population is projected to march towards an additional one billion more inhabitants. What does this mean? More consumption and more waste, especially plastic. Right now The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Pacific Trash Vortex, is an area of trash that has organized on top of the water due to circular ocean currents. Located between Japan and California, spanning an area larger than the United States, this “island of plastic” is a visible devastating example of our inability to properly or thoughtfully recycle, or better yet stop using plastic. Without increased recycling efforts, this type of floating garbage island will only increase and spread. Beyond that, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, found that by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish!


Up until 2018, China took in over one-half of the world’s recycled plastic. Then they began banning any materials that did not fit their stringent standards. The US was forced to find other avenues to send our waste as we were and are not equipped to deal with it. This resulted in 3rd world countries accepting our trash and ultimately not being able to use up to 70% of it, where these plastics then found their final resting place in the oceans of the world.


  1. The US does not have a federal recycling program; 22,000 individual communities around the nation make different decisions for their cities.
  2. According to the EPA, of the estimated 268 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, only 94 million tons were recycled or composted. 
  3. Glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely.
  4. Paper can be recycled five to seven times before it’s too degraded to be made into “new” paper.
  5. Plastic can only be recycled once or twice.
  6. Six times more plastic waste is burnt than is recycled. 


There are several keys to fixing recycling in the US. 

  1. Domestic market
    1. Requires improved technology for sorting and recovering materials. 
    2. Incorporating recycled material into products.
    3. Getting these products into the marketplace
    4. Creating demand for said products.
  2. Education
    1. Minimize contamination of recyclables.
    2. Reduce the influx of recyclables to landfills; this requires consumer awareness. 
    3. Community events and campaigns to educate people about the importance of reusing, recycling, and composting.
    4. Teach how to recycle properly.
  3. Incentives and penalties
    1. To promote waste reduction, incentivize people to reduce waste by having to pay for discarding more.
  1. Legislation
    1. In 2020, more than 37 states are considering bills to deal with plastic pollution and recycling.
    2. Including bans on single-use plastic and food ware, single-use bags, polystyrene bans, and bottle bills.
    3. As well as bills holding producers responsible for product disposal.
  2. Producer Responsibility 
    1. Require companies to be responsible—financially and physically—for management and disposal of their products.
    2. Through:
      1. Recycling
      2. Reusing products
      3. Buying them back
      4. Hiring a third party to deal with their waste 
      5. IN THE END-companies will hopefully design and produce more sustainable products. 
  3. Bottle deposits
    1. Offer a refundable deposit on all single-use beverage bottles, whether plastic, metal or glass. 
    2. This is the single most effective means of boosting recycling according to the Sierra Club
  4. Innovation
    1. Entrepreneurs are looking for better ways of turning plastic into its original components for reuse, as well as new ways to make recycling simpler.

In the end, it is truly up to each and every one of us to take part in these efforts. If we wait for others to make changes or take charge, things will never change. Take action and inspire others to do the same.

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