One of the more sobering of land pollution facts is the amount of waste that's generated each year. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans created over 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2007. Of that amount, just over one-third of it was recycled or composted, leaving more than 137 million tons discarded in landfills.
Individual Trash Contribution to Landfills
While municipal solid waste declined in 2007, 2.5 pounds of trash per person per day ended up in landfills. The recycling rate averaged 1.54 pounds per person, per day, based on EPA figures. These data show that much remains for making greater dents in landfill waste.
The generation of electronic waste (e-waste) poses serious environmental risks due to the presence of toxic materials often found in these products. Computers, monitors and other electronic devices may contain contaminants such as lead, arsenic and cadmium. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that of the 2.2 million tons of e-waste generated in 2005, up to 1.8 million tons were disposed of in landfills.
Hazardous Waste Clean-Up
Other types of hazardous waste also threaten human and environmental health. The estimate of hazardous waste sites, combining existing sites and estimated rates of discovery, from 2004 to 2033 may reach up to 294,000 sites across the country with approximately $209 billion of associated clean-up costs.
Nonpoint Source Pollution
Land pollution effects are not confined to the land. Precipitation washing over the land surface camwash applied pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural fields into waterways. Urban runoff from roads and parking lots make contaminants on these surfaces mobile, further increasing the harmful environmental effects. Pollution from these diverse sources is called nonpoint source pollution, one of the more harmful of the environmental issues facing America.
Brownfield sites are former industrial sites that may contain hazardous wastes due to manufacturing processes. For example, the Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center estimates that there are over 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States. As of 2008, nearly 1,600 brownfield sites were redeveloped and the environmental risks of land and water pollution mitigated.
Raising Hopes with Solutions
Recycling offers a solution to land pollution that benefits the environment, the consumer and business. In 2009, over 63 percent of all paper products generated in the United States were recovered through recycling. The EPA estimates that over 75 percent of all paper mills use recycled materials, taking a significant load off landfills. Recycling offers a source for more positive land pollution facts.