The Atlas of Sustainability publishes data from around the world about environmental sustainability. Above is a chart of the top 10 countries with the most municipal waste, how much waste is collected, and where that waste goes. The United States is responsible for the most total waste collected, totaling over 200 million metric tons of municipal waste. Out of the waste collected in the United States, over 50% (52.7%), more than 100 million metric tons, ends up in landfills in the year 2014. 12.8% of waste in the United States was incinerated. In the year 2014, only 25.7% of waste was recycled in the United States, and only 8.7% of waste was composted.
When waste ends up incinerated or in landfills, it can have negative environmental impacts. Landfill waste is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane. When waste is burned, these greenhouse gases are also emitted into the air. In addition to air pollution, landfills also account for groundwater pollution. When it rains, hazardous chemicals dissolve and collect at the bottom of landfills. These chemicals dissolve into the ground, polluting the ground and soil.
When we recycle, we save waste from ending up in these landfill facilities and are able combat environmental damage. In order to reduce our negative environmental impact, Americans should make an increased effort to dispose of their lifestyle waste through recycling or composting. This way of disposal is far more environmentally friendly, and not very difficult to practice.