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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 40

Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

38 - Greenhouse Gas Releases

39 - Drinking Water Quality

41 - Air Pollution

Total Solid Waste Production

Pounds of solid waste generated annually, per New Jersey resident: Recently leveling of

  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."


New Jerseyans 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.


Political 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.

Knowledge Gaps

This 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.

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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