All our lives we have been taught that when we throw something away, it really goes away. Things that are yucky or used or just plain inconvenient can be placed easily in a bin and, voila, they are out of sight and out of mind forever more. But just like an embarrassing photo or an awkward tinder date, we are slowly coming to realize that nothing ever truly “goes away”.
On average, Americans throw out 389 million tons of trash every single year, the equivalent of 64 million elephants, or 1.3 million jumbo Boeing 747 airplanes.
That’s 6.6 pounds of trash per person per day. Which means if we live to the average American age of 79, we are on track to produce 95 tons of trash across our lifetime.
That’s a lot of trash.
And that’s just talking about the trash in our direct control. If we count all waste transported, extracted, burned, pumped, emitted and flushed by consumers and industry, that number reached 10 billion tons every year.
The majority of this trash is still here. It’s just hidden, sitting in landfills both near and far — taking up space, leaking harmful methane gas, leaching chemicals into our water, and creating an irreversible toxic effect on our precious environment.
But it’s not so easy to just stop producing waste. America was built on trash -- our corporations feed it to us, the media tells us we need it, and we even trade with other countries for trash. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
We can no longer deny our waste crisis. We can no longer be merely angry or try to bargain with the issue by throwing more recycling bins on our streets or single-use “compostable” plastics on our grocery store shelves. We must fight back. But how?
The answer is: through acting together, one step at a time. Through deliberate learning and conscientious action. Through changing the paradigm and the norm. Through Zerology.