Issues

Summary

An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 53-54):

"Today, the United States recycles about 20 percent of its glass, 40 percent of paper, 50 percent of aluminum, and 60 percent of steel…Sweden recycles 90 percent of its glass and aluminum, and Japan 86 percent of its steel. But the disposal of wastes from factories, offices, and residences is still a challenge. By volume, the largest part of the problem is solid waste—the everyday materials discarded by homes and offices—that we either incinerate or dump in landfills. Although smaller in volume, toxic waste presents a bigger management challenge…An emerging problem is what to do with all our outdated electronics equipment. This “e-waste” is becoming a burden for countries and companies alike."

The Science

While the days of worrying that we'd run out of landfill space are largely over, managing our mountains of refuse, especially the toxic variety found in both heavy industry and modern electronics, is a legitimate challenge for business and society. The total quantities and types of waste generated are not disputed much. But the exact 'science' on the pathways of toxics or other dangerous substances into our environment is extremely hard to pin down. Do metals leech from landfills into our water supplies? Does it matter if something doesn't biodegrade for 1,000 years if it's tucked away in a sealed landfill? These and other tough questions will continue to challenge scientists and policymakers.

Some jumping off points for more information and data:

Business response and resources

With significant regulations on the books (like the Solid Waste Disposal Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), nearly all companies are active in some capacity in waste management. But WaveRiders are proactive about eco-efficiency and cutting waste at the source, in part to reduce 'tipping fees' and waste handling costs. A few official organizations work on the issue of waste management.