Municipal solid waste is the end product of many interacting factors: (1) large populations, (2) high per capita consumption, (3) low product durability, (4) a rash of disposable products, (5) low reuse and recycling rates, (6) a lack of personal governmental commitment to reduce waste.
There are three main approaches: (1) input approach - attempts to reduce excessive consumption, to increase product durability (lifespan), to reduce overpackaging, and others, (2) throughput approach - reducing solid waste production by reusing and recycling materials before they enter waste stream, (3) output approach - finding better ways of dealing with trash - most often this means incinerating trash or finding ways to build safer landfills.
Reuse is the return of operable or reparable goods into the market system for someone to use. Packaging materials, such as cardboard boxes, bottles, and grocery bags, can be reused, saving both energy and materials. Reusable beverage containers can be sterilized, refilled and returned to the shelf.
The advantages of reuse are many: (1) it saves energy, (2) it reduces the land area needed for solid waste disposal, (3) it provides jobs, (4) it reduces litter, (5) it decreases the amount of materials consumed by society, and (6) it helps reduce pollution and environmental degradation.
Recycling is the return of materials to manufacturers, where they can be broken down and reincorporated into new products. Recycling alleviates future resource shortages, reduces energy demand, cuts pollution, saves water, and decreases solid waste disposal and incineration.
Paper recycling use one-third to one-half as much energy as the conventional process of making paper from wood pulp. One of the obstacles to recycling is that many products contain a mixture of materials, making them more difficult to recycle.
Plastic pose a special problem for recycling. Most plastic is perfectly recyclable. The problem is that there are more than 45 different types of plastic commonly used for packaging. Making matter worse, many packages contain two or more types of plastic, making it difficult to recycle.
To reduce solid waste production, change in attitude must occur, from the exploitive one so prevalent today to a nurturing one in which we are willing to make small sacrifices for the good of the earth and future generations.
( Plastic soft drink bottles are used - in N. Y. State - to make filler for pillows and jackets.
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