CAP en Español
Small CAP Banner

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

  • print icon
  • SHARE:
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Share on Google+
  • Email icon
idea light bulb

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.

For more on this topic, please see:

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

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Benton Strong (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.481.8142 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Jennifer Molina
202.796.9706 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or


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

For more from the same column, click here