U.S.-based electricity company SaveOn Energy visualizes America’s active and inactive landfills in a series of maps in an attempt to draw attention to the volume of trash produced annually in the U.S. and raise awareness about rising methane production.
The average American disposes of 4.4 pounds of trash every day, producing a total of 728,000 tons of garbage daily – 254 million tons of which end up in one of the country’s 2,000 landfills each year. But where the garbage ends up is not necessarily indicative of the trash produced per state, as it is common for states to export their trash, contributing to a garbage industry that is valued at US $4 billion.
Both active and inactive landfills are mapped out, with green dots indicating the location of landfills that are closed and red dots indicating landfills that are operational. A time lapse demonstrates the rise in the number of landfills and dumps across the country in the past 100 years.
“That is 22 billion plastic bottles every year. Enough office paper to construct a 12-foot-high wall from Los Angeles to Manhattan. It is 300 laps around the equator in paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons. It is 500 disposable cups per average American worker – cups that will still be sitting in the landfill five centuries from now,” reads the company’s website, putting things in perspective.
One of the biggest concerns is the gas produced by landfill waste, which is demonstrated in another map. Landfill gas, which is produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic material, results in the production of methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor, as well as trace amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs). The production of methane in particular is problematic because of its contribution to global warming. Many U.S. cities have recently taken on the country’s garbage problem by reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills, with programs like San Francisco’s Zero Waste Scheme boasting a diversion rate of 80%; in spite of that, landfill waste continues to pile up across the country.