‘Waste’ is one of the biggest buzzwords of the modern green movement, and with good reason.
With each person taking stock of how much waste they create and looking at ways to reduce it, it’s the most important thing you can do to make your lifestyle as eco-friendly as possible.
What is the average person’s waste footprint then and what can we do to reduce ours?
Globally, we produce two billion tonnes of waste per year, which is for the total population of 7.6 billion people.
This shockingly large number can be decreased with a few simple changes, and the simplest could be by following the important Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.
When looking at the average waste footprint of people around the world, some countries fair worse than others.
It’s important to note that not only is the waste we create judged but the ways we manage it, with some places being better at recycling and reusing, and others have very poor management of their waste.
We’re going to look at how the US compares to the rest of the world to see where we’re going wrong and what we can do about it.
Reducing your waste footprint isn’t that hard to do and requires just a little bit of extra thought on your part, and if we all committed to making some minor changes we could drastically reduce the waste we create for planet earth.
What is the Average US Waste Footprint?
Not surprisingly, the United States is one of the worst performers when it comes to creating waste.
According to the Global Waste Index which compares the efforts of 36 of the largest countries, each US citizen creates almost a ton of waste every year just with their everyday lifestyle choices.
This waste is comprised of everything from food, clothing, packaging and materials, toys, tech devices, and water. The index compares all countries around the world to see not only how much waste we create but what we do with it.
They look at how much was made per capita, how much was recycled, incinerated, put into landfill, and dumped illegally, to get a clear picture of how it’s managed.
The United States had the highest amount of waste produced per person, at around a ton every year.
They also had a low rate of recycling compared to other nations, with an estimated 0.005 percent of that ton being recycled, and the rest either incinerated or dumped into a landfill.
Other Waste Footprints of the World
While the United States did pretty poorly in terms of waste footprints, it was bad news for a lot of the other nations as well. Denmark and New Zealand created a large amount of waste per person but had better results with how the waste was managed including high rates of waste being recycled.
As the index states, it’s not just how much waste was generated but how it was dealt with as well, so these figures should also be noted.
Top performers in waste footprints was Japan, which created around half the amount of waste as the US did for each person.
South Korea, Czech Republic, and Hungary had some of the lowest amounts of waste produced for their citizens, marking a good sign that they’re more conscious of how much they’re creating.
Other parts of the world were pretty on par with the US in terms of how well their waste was managed, recycled, and thrown into landfills.
Greece, Slovenia, and Spain all faired the same in terms of waste management even if they did have significantly lower amounts of waste generated per citizen.
It’s clear to see what comparing the other nations that the United States has a serious problem with creating waste, even if we do seem to be getting better at managing it.
Rather than relying on these waste management processes, there are things we need to do on our own that will reduce the amount we make before it ever gets to that point.
7 Ways to Reduce Your Waste
The good news about waste footprints is that it’s not that hard to reduce yours significantly with just a few easy changes.
Global environmental issues can be dramatically reduced just within our own households, and as individuals, there are some things you can do to reduce your waste.
- Use a weekly meal plan and create a shopping list from this. By following a list and knowing exactly what you’ll eat that week, you reduce the chance of buying too much that will eventually have to be thrown away when it goes off.
- Swap the disposable items in your house for reusable ones where possible. Shopping bags, straws, plastic wrap, face wipes, coffee cups, and water bottles can all be replaced with reusable items that will reduce your annual waste.
- Take an extra day to think before making any purchases outside of your grocery shop. We often impulse buy things that aren’t necessary, and the products and their packaging make up a huge portion of waste.
- Refuse and plastic packaging where possible by taking along your own glass jars, paper bags, and other enviro-friendly items, or simply carry fruits and vegetables in a basket without using a bag.
- Make a conscious effort to reuse or renew anything before throwing it away. Can it be fixed and made new again? Is there another way to get some use out of it? Can I give it to someone who might be able to use it? Ask yourself all of these things before giving them away.
- Learn how to recycle things the right way so they aren’t thrown into a landfill. Remove the lids from plastic bottles, rinse out containers, remove them from plastic bags, and never put broken glass in with the recycling.
- Rather than buying things brand new, look at local markets and online marketplaces to find good quality second-hand items. This is a great way to help someone get rid of their waste without purchasing anything new, and it saves a lot of money in the process.
Choosing Businesses with A Small Waste Footprint
As consumers, we speak the loudest with the choices we make when purchasing goods and services, and this is one of the best things we can do to reduce our waste footprint as well.
When it comes to waste, this means choosing to buy from brands and companies that pride themselves on lowering theirs as well.
It doesn’t take much to research a company to find their stance on eco-friendly or green issues and whether or not they invest in initiatives that can be helpful for the planet.
Many companies make it transparent how much waste they create and what they’re doing to minimize it, and where possible, these are the ones we should be shopping with.
- Large stationery brand Unilever has an updated tally of how much waste is made with their packaging, and a clear goal to halve that by the end of 2020.
- Japanese car company Subaru reuses or recycles around 96 percent of their vehicle components and aims to do more.
- Google aims to be a zero-waste company soon and currently recycles and reuses 86 percent of its waste globally.
- Microsoft guarantees that at least 90 percent of their waste never ends up in landfills, and was the first tech company to be awarded the US Green Building Council‘s Zero Waste Certification.
The amount of waste we generate might seem insignificant to us, but when adding up the billions of people on earth you see why it matters to make some changes.
For those new to the concept of waste footprints, we’ve got the answers to some questions that can open your eyes to why it’s so important.
How Much Plastic is Wasted in the United States?
The daily plastic waste of an American citizen is around 12oz a day. In total, the US creates over 275,000 tons of plastic with most of it ending up in parks, riverways, and oceans.
As a goal, each household should try to eliminate their reliance on plastic products and packaging as much as possible, as this is one material that poses the biggest threat.
What Products Make the Most Waste?
Surprisingly, anything made of paper and paperboard was found to make the largest amount of municipal solid waste.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these products accounted for around a quarter of all waste. Plastic and electronic devices also made up a large portion and were seen to increase in the last 10 years significantly.