Study: US puts twice as much trash in landfills than thought

September 21, 2015 bySeth Borenstein
Study: US puts twice as much trash in landfills than thought
In this Dec. 6, 2012 file photo, trash is compacted at the landfill in Moretown, Vt. Americans are sending more than twice as much trash to landfills than the federal government estimates, according to a new study. It turns out that on average America tosses five pounds of trash per person per day into its landfills, which are not overflowing because they are expanding faster than they are filling, said the same study, which is based on actual landfill measurements instead of government estimates. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Americans are sending more than twice as much trash to landfills as the federal government has estimated, according to a new study.

It turns out that on average Americans toss 2.3 kilograms (five pounds) of per person per day into its , according to an analysis of figures from the same study, which is based on actual landfill measurements instead of government estimates.

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relied on estimates to determine how much trash was being sent to landfills. But in 2010, the agency required most municipal landfills to measure and report how much trash was heading into the dumps, as part of an effort to lower heat-trapping methane emissions. Researchers at Yale University looked at the records for more than 1,200 landfills and calculated amounts, predominantly based on weights.

They figured it was 263 million metric tons (289 million tons) in 2012, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. For the same year, EPA estimated the figure to be 123 million metric tons (135 million tons).

The Yale team calculated that in 2013, waste sent to landfills rose to 268 million metric tons (294 million tons). With 316 million people, that comes to 849 kilograms (1,871 pounds) per person in that year, the last for which there are figures.

Jon Powell at Yale's Center for Industrial Ecology said the amount is different because of the way his team calculated it: Adding up actual measurements instead of estimates based on what businesses told government indirectly. The EPA partially funded the study.

Three outside experts said they trust the Yale numbers more than the EPA's. However, Thomas Kinnaman, a Bucknell University professor who studies the economics of solid waste and recycling, added the findings don't matter much, because landfills have plenty of room to expand. Powell found that for every year's worth of trash filled on average in the United States, landfills add 2.7 years' worth of capacity.

If Powell's data is correct, Americans aren't recycling as much as authorities thought. EPA estimated that Americans recycled 34.5 percent of their waste in 2012, but if the amount of trash matches Powell calculation, the recycling rate would be 21.4 percent. But the data may not match up well, Powell cautioned.

Americans don't seem to generate more trash than other cultures, Bucknell's Kinnaman said. And not all of the waste is from homes. Powell said a sampling, which may not be representative nationally, showed that 12.8 percent of the material that flowed into the landfill was construction and demolition debris.

Explore further: How to make a profit from rotting garbage

More information: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2804

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nilbud
not rated yet Sep 21, 2015
Statistics from third world corrupt countries are often fiction.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (3) Sep 21, 2015
"Astronomy", with the limitations conventional "science" demonstrates, will regularly post claims about supposed black holes at the heart of galaqxies billions of light years away engaging in unnatural elementary particle transitions on the basis of surrogate measures like spikes in the intensity of of certain element lines in spectra from gas clouds thousands of light years from the purported black holes, and "science" devotees will take that as conclusive and unquestionable. This is something here and now, something that can be determined just by walking out to a landfill and counting the number of garbage trucks directly. And, yet, they got it wrong. Assuming that claim of error is itself not a lie. Assuming they knew the truth from the beginning but lied, or this new estimate is a lie. In either case, though, the claim of "reliability" in "science" seems a lie.
ab3a
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 21, 2015
The problem with recycling is that it is often based upon very optimistic prices for raw material costs and processing. Yet when the commodity markets tank (paper, plastics, steel, glass, etc.) what is one to do? Well, they go in to a landfill because not only is it not economically feasible to collect such recycled materials, municipalities can't even give this stuff away.

The only exception is aluminum. That's worth collecting because it is so economical to recycle. The rest of this stuff is, for lack of a better term, garbage.
abecedarian
1 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2015
And what contribution do "undocumented workers" have?
... considering they don't flush toilet paper, because the sewage systems they had where they came from were inadequate, so they put it in the dumpsters.
antonima
not rated yet Sep 22, 2015
The problem with recycling is that it is often based upon very optimistic prices for raw material costs and processing. Yet when the commodity markets tank (paper, plastics, steel, glass, etc.) what is one to do? Well, they go in to a landfill because not only is it not economically feasible to collect such recycled materials, municipalities can't even give this stuff away.

The only exception is aluminum. That's worth collecting because it is so economical to recycle. The rest of this stuff is, for lack of a better term, garbage.


Also glass, from what I've gathered.
The big plastic recycling campaigns were actually organized by soft drink companies like coca cola after complaints about bottles piling up everywhere. Nobody said it was effective, but citizens and legislators liked the idea and so the plastic bottle was never banned.
SamB
not rated yet Sep 22, 2015
Thank goodness!.. I thought it was going into the oceans but now I see we were spared that nightmare.
gkam
1 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2015
We will be mining those dumps in a few decades or sooner. The Mountain View dump has been mined for a generation. In California, we covered many and extracted the methane from decomposition, mixing it in with the natural gas supplies after calorimetric adjustment.

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