The average American throws away nearly five pounds of trash daily.
“Your whole life, you’re told, ‘You buy it, you use it, you throw it away,” says Richard Ludt, Director of Environmental Affairs at Interior Removal Specialist, Inc. “Well there’s no such place as away. Everything has to go someplace. There is an end-of-life cost to everything.”
“Away” can mean storm drains, oceans, the stomachs of marine animals, or a giant floating island of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Even when the local solid waste infrastructure is working properly, “away” means a nearby landfill. But the average landfill in the United states will be full in the next 15 years.
And solid waste is only part of the story. There’s the greenhouse gas methane that’s emitted by the United States’ 133 billion pounds of annual rotting, wasted food. There’s the 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon emitted every year by the trucks and cars that cart around our food and our waste and ourselves.
But California is brimming with countless people working to minimize how much waste we make, and find less damaging ways to dispose of it. That includes teams of scientists genetically modifying plants to better capture carbon from the atmosphere. It includes formerly-incarcerated individuals who have been trained to take apart old computers so they can be recycled. It includes local politicians fighting for their constituents’ right to repair their own stuff, and one artist who figured out how to take the plastic out of Barbie’s Dreamhouse. And it includes neighborhood coalitions working together to share their wealth and reject our consumer culture.
KCRW’s new series, “Wasted,” introduces audiences to all of these people. The series spans two months and will uncover neat solutions to the dirty problem of waste. Listen to more stories here.