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Waste not … want not? Not in the U.S. …

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.

Waste is waste is waste, whether its tossed along the roadway or tossed into the garbage can. Surely we can do better.

Waste is waste is waste, whether its tossed along the roadway or tossed into the garbage can. Surely we can do better.

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.

About Dave Bradley (254 Articles)
I'm the one behind two totally unrelated blogs; one on 15 years of writing a weekly letter to my kids (plus other recipients), the other on my localized environmental responsibility. I'm a writer by trade and both endeavors are accepted practice for me. As for the letters, my adult children Ellen and Reid may have seen letters as corny at one point, but it's accepted practice for them, too, to find something in their mailbox other than bills and junk mail. Email and texting don't do a lot for me for a lot of different reasons. Snail mail has its place in the communicative world so as long as they keep selling stamps, I'm buying. As for 'Pick Up Your Path' and the environment, I advocate what citizens can do themselves to take a direct hand in their neighborhood environment. But Pick Up Your Path is also a general environmental blog. It may be largely about litter and trash, but both of those are just one element of the total environmental picture.

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