Stuff Becomes Trash

Part 5 – “The Story of Stuff” series

“As soon as Stuff enters our homes, it begins the transformation.  We get something and it starts out prominently displayed, then gets moved into a cupboard or onto a shelf, then stuffed in a closet, then thrown in a box in the garage and held there until it becomes garbage.” Annie Leonard “The Story of Stuff”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated an average of 4.6 pounds of trash per person per day, our municipal waste totaling 254 million tons. The EPA estimates one third of the trash is recycled resulting in Co2 reduction equivalent to removing 35 million vehicles from the road. According to United Nations statistics, our waste far surpasses the average – Canadian (1.79 pounds per day), Norwegian (2.3), Japanese (2.58), Australian (2.7 ) and  China only .7 pounds per day!

And this is just part of the story – Compared to 254 million tons of municipal waste, the EPA reports industrial waste is generating 7.6 billion tons a year – waste generated to create our Stuff!

While many of us put a lot of thought in the way we purchase and handle our Stuff, placing a small bag of trash on the curb each week, we still generate a lot of recyclables.  Certainly recycling saves natural resources and energy, but most of our recyclables are downcycled, and lose value.  While recycling is emphasized in our current system, our efforts should be on wasting less from the beginning.

Imagine all the jobs we would create if repairing was prioritized over tossing, then dismantling and reusing components after something is used up. Training and jobs in the science and technology fields would lead the way.  World-wide researchers are already developing solutions introducing Zero Waste initiatives.

Other countries practice “Extended Producer Responsibility” where the company that makes the product or packaging has to deal with it at the end of its lifecycle.  When the responsibility is placed on the producer, their design and marketing approaches reduce the products environmental impact.  They produce better, longer-lasting, less toxic Stuff.

As Annie says “The main waste of resources is the garbage itself.  Behind every piece of garbage is the long history, of extraction in mines, harvesting in forests or fields, production in factories, and extensive ferrying along supply chains.  How ridiculous is it to lock up all those resources underground after spending all that effort to extract and make and distribute them in the first place!”

Although I do still spend time shuffling and cleaning all my stuff, on a good day I don’t acquire more.  On those good days, I have more time to read, enjoy nature, help with various causes true to my heart, write and spend time with my friends and family – Enjoying Life!

The Story of Stuff Series

Part I – “My Beloved Stuff”

Part 2 – “The Costs of Stuff”

Part 3 – “Bring on the Stuff”

Part 4 – “Stuff Build-Up”

Part 5 – “Stuff Becomes Trash”

Part 6 – “Consumer Treadmill Pause”

Part 7 – “Healthier Consumer Practices”


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