Difference Engine: Talking Trash

In an article from the Economist's blog, "Babbage" last week, a very detailled discussion of the waste habits of the United States helped shed light on what becomes of garbage when it reaches the landfill. The article also discusses the fact that manufacturers in the US are not held accountable for the packaging they wrap their products in, effectively leaving the issue in the hands of the consumer to resolve. According to the article:

"Simple changes in the law could reduce the amount of rubbish produced dramatically. In his book 'Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash', the Pulitzer prize-winning author Edward Humes notes that other wealthy countries with high living standards have rejected the disposable products that make up much of America’s rubbish.

According to the OECD, the average person creates 3.3lb (1.5kg) of rubbish a day in France, 2.7lb in Canada and no more than 2.3lb in Japan. By the OECD's reckoning, the average American tosses 4.5lb a day, though more recent accounting puts the figure over 7lb a day, with less than a quarter being recycled. As a result, communities in America spend more on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, says Mr Humes."

To read the full story, see the article on the Economist.

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