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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 (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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