Trash, some American statistics

There are common misconceptions about landfills, and what trash is composed of.

When William L. Rathje, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, learned that no one had ever dug into an American landfill, he formed the Garbage Project to discover just what was inside one.

People in a poll estimated that disposable diapers occupy somewhere between five and 40 percent of landfill space. Diapers were less than one percent by weight or 1.5 percent by volume of the waste in landfills.

The Garbage Project found that fast-food packaging accounts for no more than one-third of one percent of the total volume of the average landfill. Expanded polystyrene foam—used for egg cartons, meat trays, coffee cups, and packing peanuts—accounts for no more than one percent of the volume of landfilled garbage.

What is filling our landfills then? According to Rathje, it’s paper, especially newspaper. Rathje concluded that recycling newspapers could significantly lengthen the life of a landfill.

Recycle, people!

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