We have talked about the problem of food waste before. About 40% of the food produced in the United States goes to waste, which is a truly shameful statistic. According to a Business for Social Responsibility study on the subject, about 44% of the food that goes into landfills comes from homes. About a third comes from the food service industry.
Baltimore’s harbor is cleaner than it has been in decades thanks to the efforts of two solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptors built to look like googly-eyed cartoon characters. In fact, they are known as Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel.
By some estimates, Americans waste as much as 40% of food that is produced. None of the reasons are anything to be proud of, but one of the most frustrating is the confusing array of food date labels that are supposed to tell us whether the food we purchased should be eaten.
The use of plastics has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and production of plastics is expected to double again in the next 20 years. According to Eco Watch, the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic every year. And nearly one-third of all discarded plastic is not properly disposed of or recycled.
As the world’s population grows and becomes more urban and affluent, the amount of solid waste we produce grows and grows. Over the past century, the total amount has risen tenfold. By 2025, the world-wide total is expected to double again. The average person in the United States throws away their body weight in garbage every month.
Apparel giant Nike recently announced that 71% of its footwear now contains materials made from waste products from its own manufacturing processes. They call the waste material “Nike Grind,” and it is made from recycled sneakers, plastic bottles, and manufacturing scraps from Nike’s factories.
The X Prize Foundation provides financial incentives for innovative solutions to various technical challenges. Topics have ranged from developing spacecraft to trying to create a real-world version of the Star Trek tricorder. Last year, the foundation launched a $20 million challenge to come up with technologies by the year 2020 that turn carbon dioxide captured from the smokestacks of power plants into useful products.
Plastics are the ubiquitous workhorse material of the modern economy. Their use has increased 20-fold in the past half century, and production of plastics is expected to double again in the next 20 years.
Estimates are that as much as 40% of produce in America is wasted. We throw out fruits and vegetables for a variety of reasons, but one of the most unfortunate is when produce is tossed simply because it doesn’t look good enough. Misshapen tomatoes, lumpy carrots, double-lobed potatoes, and crooked cucumbers end up in the waste bin instead of on our plates.
We have talked quite a bit about food waste and in particular its impact on world hunger and on the economy. The world wastes more than $750 billion worth of food each year and 1.6 billion tons of food is left in fields, sent to landfills or scattered about the landscape. Another 7 million tons of fishery discards are dumped in the sea.
Paper or plastic? It’s a quandary we have faced in the grocery store for decades. Plastic is non-biodegradable and usually ends up in landfills or worse, in waterways or in the ocean. On the other hand, manufacturing paper is water intensive and produces pollution.
Our national parks are shining examples of the American wilderness whose natural wonders attract millions of visitors from around the world. This popularity has a cost: national park visitors generate more than 100 million pounds of garbage each year, most of which ends up in landfills.