MAY 27, 2017 5:16 PM PDT

Should we burn our trash?


If you are the average person living in the United States, according to the EPA you generate about 1600 pounds of waste every year. That's a lot of trash - and where does it all go? Well, the two most common strategies of "getting rid" of garbage is either burning it or burying it. In the US, we generally opt for the latter; about 55% of our waste ends up in landfills. But is that the right choice? Let's take a look.

Landfills are responsible for about 18% of man-made methane. Methane, as a potent greenhouse gas that is about 25 times stronger at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, is not something we want to be generating more of. While burning trash does of course emit carbon dioxide (and strictly by the numbers, these emissions are even higher than burning fossil fuels), burning garbage actually comes out on top because much of the carbon emissions released from burning is coming from materials that were very recently a part of the carbon cycle (as opposed to fossil fuels, which have been out of the carbon cycle for millions of years). And the big plus is that burning trash doesn't create methane.

Although...it isn't as simple as that, because while burning may not release as much CO2 or CH4, it does release sulfur dioxide, dioxins, mercury, and other pollutants, none of which we want in our atmosphere. So while there there may be a better of two evils, the best option by far is to produce less waste and recycle more!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 13, 2020
Neuroscience
Can COVID-19 Be Diagnosed by Vocal Patterns?
JUL 13, 2020
Can COVID-19 Be Diagnosed by Vocal Patterns?
Researchers from the Lincoln Laboratory have found early evidence that subtle changes in peoples' voices may indicat ...
JUL 19, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Study Finds Turmeric has Antiviral Effects
JUL 19, 2020
Study Finds Turmeric has Antiviral Effects
Researchers from the Wuhan University of Engineering in China have found that curcumin, a natural compound found in turm ...
AUG 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth's Magnetic Field Changing Faster than Previously Thought
AUG 10, 2020
Earth's Magnetic Field Changing Faster than Previously Thought
The Earth's magnetic field is crucial for life on Earth. Generated by the molten iron core 3000 km beneath our plane ...
AUG 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Planet-wide Rainstorms Created Lakes on Ancient Mars
AUG 26, 2020
Planet-wide Rainstorms Created Lakes on Ancient Mars
Researchers from the University of Texas have found that a huge amount of liquid water likely rained down from the skies ...
AUG 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
AUG 27, 2020
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
A new study reports that polar bear populations could collapse in the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions remain a ...
OCT 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
A New Way of Building Houses: 3-D Printing with Clay
OCT 02, 2020
A New Way of Building Houses: 3-D Printing with Clay
Our ancestors had a long history of building dwelling structures using clay and plant-based fibrous materials. Even thes ...
Loading Comments...