Volume 5 Issue 8
March 1999


How Environmentally Aware Are You?




According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) each man, woman and child generates roughly three quarters of a ton (1,500 lbs.) of garbage per year, or about 4 pounds per day!



Renowned garbologist, Dr. William Rathje (Univ. of Arizona), whose garbage project has dug through old landfills, says that virtually nothing biodegrades quickly in today's modern landfills, which are designed to keep out the water and air needed for biodegradation. In fact, he has dug up 40-year-old, perfectly readable newspapers; 20-year-old carrots and corn; and lots of other things you would normally consider to be biodegradable. The real issue is sending less to the landfills in the first place.



According to the EPA, the U.S. sent nearly 60% of its garbage to landfills in 1995, recycled or composted 27% and burned the rest in waste-to-energy facilities.



Surprised? According to the EPA, about 30% of the volume in our landfills is paper. Other materials, by volume, include plastic (24%), yard wastes (8%) and metals (10%).

The motto Reduce, Reuse and Recycle actually represents the top strategies in the EPA's order of priority. Thus, while we all know how important it is to recycle, we should also find ways to reduce the amount of materials used as well.

How did you do? If you knew most or all of the answers, you're at the top of the class! If you didn't, don't worry. We've talked to thousands of educators, most of whom were quite surprised by many of these facts.

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