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Americans Produce Twice as Much Garbage as Originally Estimated

posted: 09/22/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Landfill garbage waste dumped in the rubbish dump site
zeljkosantrac/iStock

Previous figures regarding Americans' garbage production were widely inaccurate, according to a new study from Yale's Center for Industrial Ecology.

Based on information provided directly by landfill operators, Yale researchers deduced that 262 million tons of municipal solid waste made its way into American landfills in 2012. Previous Environmental Protection Agency estimates pegged that figure at only 122 million tons, using a data set sourced from businesses, the US census and the Department of Commerce.

Since 2010, American landfills have been required to report operational data to the government. According to study lead author Jon Powell, most landfills now have certified scales capable of weighing incoming garbage.

"I feel that it's a superior number to previous estimates, and the key is that we can use our method every year going forward to more accurately track our progress towards more sustainable materials management," Powell remarked in a news release.

The study also focused on the nation's landfills' ability to capture greenhouse gases, finding that closed landfills were notably more successful at capturing gas than landfills still in operation. Decomposing waste is responsible for nearly 20% of emissions within the United States.

Powell's research is published in the September 21st issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.

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