Too Much Waste is Being Wasted

Michigan residents throw away about 49 billion cubic yards of waste each year. That would amount to filling Spartan Stadium approximately 95 times. Because landfills continue to expand and take up more space, there’s a good chance they could one day possibly invade people’s backyard. Remember Wall-E? If we aren’t careful, we could see the world looking despairingly similar.

Not only do landfills take up space, they also add to greenhouse gases. This is due to organic material decomposing, giving off methane. Methane is a lot more effective at trapping heat, which leads to the greenhouse effect. Michigan generates the fourth most gas-from-landfill of all the states, distributing 179.6 million cubic feet of methane gas per day.

Landfill methane could easily be reduced with the reduction of waste itself. Unfortunately, while the population grows, waste grows as well. Though human beings may not be able to slow the amount of waste they dispose of, people can control where that waste ends up. The majority of what’s being thrown away can actually be recycled or composted. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Recycling and Waste Minimization Specialist Katie Venechuk, 40 percent of the state's waste can be recycled and 35 percent can be composted. Imagine all the recycled materials that could be made and sold from the 19.6 billion cubic yards of matter that are currently being thrown away.

Regrettably, recycling rates in Michigan are some of the lowest in the country–15 percent lower than the national average. Michigan residents need to step up and be more proactive about recycling. Part of the reason people don’t recycle is they are under the impression it costs more to recycle and it’s not easy to do. This is a common misconception. Many garbage services provide either a dual-service, charging one rate to remove both trash and recycling, or offer on-site recycling drop off bins.

This simple process of recycling can also have a positive impact on the state's economy, creating thousands of jobs and adding approximately $24 billion of revenue. By investing in the recycling industry, Michigan has the chance to decrease its methane output while providing new employment opportunities and generating funds for other beneficial programs.

This year alone about $435 million of recyclable materials will go to waste in landfills. That number can be reduced by more than half if Michiganders made recycling waste part of their everyday routines, just like taking out the trash.

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