In days gone by, when you opened something up, you simply threw away the packaging. You ate your dinner and threw away the scraps, and you tossed your ratty old sweatshirt, t-shirt or jeans in the dumpster when they had more holes in them than a chunk of Swiss cheese.
A Throw-Away Society
It’s not surprising then, that as a nation, Americans generate more waste than any other nation in the world with 4.6 pounds of municipal solid waste per person per day—fifty-five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage. It is estimated, for example, that Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour, with the majority of them being thrown away.
We've come a long way from there in many regards. Today that journey of your old t-shirt and jeans or your Friday dinner leftovers entering the waste stream from garbage to landfill can take a very different route. That shirt or jeans can now be donated to a textile recycling center; the food scraps can now be composted; and every package you open is broken down and recyclable pieces are put in their appropriate containers.
In nearly every community, a variety of city and statewide initiatives exist to reduce the annual amount of garbage going into the waste stream. Recycling programs are in place for paper/cardboard and textiles, bottles and cans and electronic waste or e-waste. Most recently, composting programs have gained momentum in residential communities.
John Schert, the director of the Hinkley Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management in Gainesville—a statewide research center, funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and hosted at the University of Florida—and the self-styled “chief garbologist” of the Sunshine State, says that “Composting is the means of taking anything that will decompose and burying it into soil to go back to the earth. There have been no changes to the FDEP compost rule, 62-709, that would affect requirements for disinfection of compost. Some larger landfills are adding bio-solids to their Class I landfill disposal operations, which promotes the anaerobic digestion of the waste into carbon dioxide and methane.”