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Idea of the Day: Our Trash Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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The United States currently generates 390 million tons of trash per year, or 7 pounds per person per day. Municipal solid waste, or MSW, commonly known as garbage, gets picked up from homes and businesses on a weekly basis and is usually sent straight to a landfill. At the landfill, a hole is dug in the ground and then lined with a man-made liner. As trash begins to fill the hole, methane is emitted as a result of waste being broken down by anaerobic bacteria. Once the landfill is full, it is capped to limit water from seeping into it.

Although many states have the physical space for trash, it is environmentally unsustainable to take garbage and bury it in the ground at landfills, where it decomposes and releases potent greenhouse-gas pollution. What’s more, some trash has to be transported by diesel trucks or trains to landfills several hundred miles away, further exacerbating its pollution footprint. Though garbage is not something we tend to actively think about on a daily basis, specifically as it relates to climate change, the United States must begin developing policies to limit the environmental consequences that result from our generation of garbage.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education, poverty)
202.478.6331 or apreiss@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi (immigration, race and ethnicity)
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

 

This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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