5 Facts About Landfills
March 30, 2015
The average American generates 4.6 pounds of trash per day – that translates to around 250 million tons every year! Do you know how waste management works?
Here are a few quick facts about landfills:
- There are fewer landfills today. In the 1980s, the United States was home to more than 7,600 dumps but that number was slashed by more than 75 percent – to 1,908 – by 2009. That’s partly because the average landfill grew substantially (approx. 4x) in size.
- It doesn’t mean we’re producing less waste. Trash production has actually tripled in the U.S. since 1960! And, contrary to popular belief, much of this waste isn’t decomposing quickly, if at all. Landfill excavators have found 40-year-old newspapers with print that’s still completely legible.
- We have room to grow, but at what price? Nine out of America’s 10 largest landfills will reach maximum capacity in less than 50 years. Is there room for new sites? Sure, though laws restricting the location of landfills means a longer haul for trash and increased emissions from trucking.
- Landfills can find new life. Once a landfill reaches capacity, it can be capped and the area repurposed into nature preserves, golf courses, resorts and more. But, that doesn’t change the fact that we’re sometimes just tossing away otherwise valuable materials – like yard clippings, food and other organic waste – which could be turned into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.
- Landfills burn methane gas. A byproduct of trash in landfills is methane gas, which is vented or burned off via embedded pipes and released into the atmosphere. These harmful emissions are damaging the environment. Methane that comes from biomass can actually be turned into a power source! That’s why we shouldn’t throw organic waste into a landfill.
If we anaerobically digest just half of U.S. food waste, we could power 2.5 million homes for a year with clean energy. Find out how your city handles waste. Renergy can help.