I’ve estimated previously that the average daily weight of junk I fetch is somewhere in the 2.5 – 3 lb. range. If you extrapolate the latter to five walks per week (15 lbs.) and multiply by 52 weeks, that’s 780 lbs. of debris removed each year from my singular 2.54 mile path. That’s 0.84 lbs. of trash per mile.
The City of Charlotte claims to have 2,400 miles of city maintained streets. To further extrapolate, my 0.84 lbs. per mile means 2,016 lbs. of litter and trash dumped on our thoroughfares and walkways per day. That’s more than one ton and that means 735,840 tons of trash is strewn about Charlotte roadways per year. That’s just plain sick and disgusting. I don’t want to do the math for the rest of North Carolina or the U.S. It’s Friday and no one needs to go into the weekend depressed.
What this simply does is point the finger of blame at us as a society of wasters.
In 2013, the most recent reporting period for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. generated 254 million tons of trash per day. That’s 4.4 pounds per person that ends up, for the most part, in a landfill. We recycled 34.3 percent of those materials.
In contrast, residents in the United Kingdom produced only 1/3 of our daily per person waste total while recycling at a much higher rate (almost 50 percent). The Japanese recycle more than 95 percent of their plastic and metal waste. Waste and recycling rates in other developed nations roughly match those non-U.S. figures. We are getting outpaced when it comes to waste and how to make the best of it.
Sure, it’s a stretch to segue from a loner picking up trash to a global glut of waste. But it’s all tied together. Unfortunately, the tie may become a noose around our collective necks if we don’t rein in our use – and avoid wholesale wastage – of our resources.