The United States produces 265 million tons of garbage each year. Since there are 300+ million [United States of] Americans, this means that each person on average produces slightly less than a ton of garbage each year. Although it is conveniently moved out of sight and thus out of mind every week, that ton of garbage has to go somewhere.

About 12% of the garbage is incinerated; 33% is recycled and 55% ends up in landfills. Landfills pretty much work like tombs which means that unlike compost which turns into fertilizer, the matter in landfills does not decay into anything. It just takes up space.

Looking at the average budget, I think we can surmise that consumers like to replace their things very often and that they prefer replacing them with new things. This sad behavior creates more garbage than replacing them with old things or not replacing them at all due to trickle down economics. This incredible wasteful lifestyle explains why the average “consumer unit” (2 parents and 0.5 children) spends $49000 a year and vice a versa. It also means that pretty much everything you see in a department store will end up in a landfill 5-10 years from now. A quick survey of your home should indicate whether you contribute to that depressing fact. How many of your clothes, appliances, furniture, vehicles, … are more than 10 years old? More accurately, how many are not?

It is interesting to note that much archeology and understanding of ancient history is based on the contents of ancient garbage dumps. Pottery in particular, because ceramics is so remarkably stable and thus survives much longer than the other garbage; thousands of years. Now, our civilization does not have much of a tradition in terms of pottery, but yet we do fill our landfills with numerous very solid ceramic objects that will likely survive even longer than the pots and plates of the ancients. When future archeologists dig through our dumps, they will find them dominated by our … toilet bowls. How’s that for a legacy?

In other news: Have a look at the Yakezie Challenge Carnival courtesy of to see if there are some interesting blogs you don’t know yet.

Originally posted 2010-02-26 20:06:12.