| Things to think about
With better technologies and knowledge of environmental issues,
we could easily have reduced the amount of waste we produced
during the 1980s and 1990s. But instead, since 1985 each of
us has on average increased our waste by more than 1,000 pounds.
Our increase in waste
generation was until recently somewhat offset by dramatic increases
in recycling, but this is not a complete solution and the state’s
ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the total waste stream.
This is called "source reduction."
generate about two tons of garbage per person every year. Throughout
the United States, we produce nearly twice as much waste per
citizen as any other country in the world. This is a costly
situation. We pay to buy unneeded materials such as packaging,
and pay again to dispose of them. Recycling helps, yet is still
more expensive in cost and resources than using less in the
first place. The adage "reduce, reuse, recycle" is even more
relevant and necessary today than ever.
Waste is a misplaced
resource. Disposing of waste is an economic burden and an expensive
part of local services. The most successful firms and economies
in the world are usually those with the most efficient manufacturing
processes. True efficiency means wasting little and avoiding
purchase of costly materials and energy in the first place.
We dispose of
our waste by burying it in landfills or burning it in incinerators.
This can result in groundwater pollution, poor air quality,
and many other forms of environmental degradation. Such damage
frequently pales in comparison to the damage we do in removing
these materials from nature in the first place.
and social battles over where to locate and how to pay for waste
disposal facilities have become contentious and threaten to
split our state along racial, economic, and geographic lines.
Concerns include odor, the traffic of heavy trucks, and the
potential health risks of pollution from incinerators and landfills.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that poor and minority communities
may receive more than their fair share of these facilities.
indicator does not reveal the composition of our trash. Since
some materials, such as batteries, are more of a problem than
others, it is important to know this. We also do not know how
much damage was caused bringing these materials to New Jersey.
In order to understand the true cost of the waste we produce,
we need to do "life cycle analyses," where we track the materials
we use from extraction through production to disposal or re-use.
Such information is mostly unavailable.