In the age we live in today, it’s undeniable that we have a reliance on industries for providing us with the products we need in our everyday life, whether they be essential products or not. Whether it be blankets for your dorm room or the food served at Daly’s Dining Hall, industries certainly play an important role in delivering to us what we need. Industries are made under the guise of making everyday life significantly easier, and while this is true, what is the cost? How are these companies able to output so much supply so quickly? The answer: uncontrolled production that results in excess waste increasing exponentially over time.
On average, Americans produce around 236 million pounds of municipal solid waste every year, while industrial waste can amount up to 7.6 billion tons of waste, according to recoverusa.com. What makes this number so much worse is that the majority of waste from industries is composed of paper and cardboard, all of which could easily be recycled. If these companies merely established a simple recycling program, a large portion of waste would be removed. In fact, about 10% of waste found in landfills is composed of packaging materials, much of which can be largely attributed to industrial waste.
The average amount of waste produced by Americans has also increased. The average amount of waste produced in 1960 was 2.68 pounds, but in 2017 that average was 4.51 pounds. As the average amount of municipal waste we produce increases, so does the average industrial waste. Both show little signs of slowing down as needs change and the population increases.
“Industries probably don’t recycle because of the increased division of labor and increased costs associated with that and sorting of the recyclables. These industries should look into applying for recycling grants, as they can help offset the added cost of sorting through and collecting all the recycling while also giving them an incentive to be more green,” said senior film and TV major, Brendan McMullen.
An increasingly common tactic found in many industries is a practice known as greenwashing. Greenwashing is a form of marketing spun in which green public relations and marketing are deceptively used to persuade consumers that its products and policies are environmentally friendly. This type of marketing tactic was used by 95% of products out of the 4,744 “green” products that were surveyed in 2010, according to impakter.com. Greenwashing is an issue because companies often make up statistics or trade alliances that indicate something was grown, manufactured or harvested sustainably and humanely. Companies might also be overemphasizing a change they made with a product by promoting that change on their packaging or other means in hopes that consumers will recognize that the change is good, even if it’s small, thus influencing people to buy more of that product since they think what they’re doing is really good for the environment. For example, a new type of water bottle might use 5% less plastic which; while it is less and will make some difference, is a very small amount and should not be emphasized heavily just to attract more customers. Consumers can look out for greenwashing by researching a product and company more, paying attention to details that have factual backing to them, and even third-party seals of approval, ensuring our support goes to companies that actively attempt to reduce their waste.
Ultimately, it’s up to consumers to make changes in how waste is produced and handled.
“The way to hold these industries accountable would be to enforce policies that force these companies to limit the amount of pollution they are creating, as well as imposing fines on those that exceed those limits…There should also be policies regarding these companies being fully transparent in terms of all of their activities that have the potential to impact the environment,” said junior environmental science major, David Lewchuck.
It comes down to us to unite and push for changes to be made by making sure our voice is heard through protests, voting with our dollars, and purchasing products that are produced sustainably. Rider already utilizes so many green products that reduce waste, such as the trash and recycling cans made out of recycled milk jugs, reusable straws, compostable takeout containers and so much more. These changes always start small, but with enough people united behind an effort for cleaner production for all industries and full transparency with the public, that can be achieved. We can all contribute in our own small way to make huge changes for our one and only Earth.