Are We Trashing Our Future?

At a press conference, President George W. Bush announced that he is surprised at how quickly global warming is happening. Then one of his aides pulled him aside and explained that it was just springtime.

Seriously, protecting our environment should be a priority for everyone (individuals, families and companies). One way to do that is by reducing the amount of material going into our landfills.


  • Municipal landfills and their leachate (water) and air emissions are hazardous. “…82% of surveyed landfill cells had leaks while 41% had a leak area of more than 1 square feet,” (source: Leak Location Services, Inc. (LLSI))
  • Newer, lined landfills leak in narrow plumes, making leaks only detectable if they reach landfill monitoring wells. Both old and new landfills are usually located near large bodies of water, making detection of leaks and their cleanup difficult. FYI-Landfill liners are only 1/10 of an inch thick. (source:  EPA)
  • Americans generate about 4.6 pounds (2.1 kilograms) per day of trash per person, which translates to 251 million tons (228 million metric tons) per year. (source:  EPA)  This is almost twice as much trash per person as most other major countries. Some of this trash gets recycled, some is burned, but the majority is buried in landfills.
  • Since 1960 the amount of trash produced in the U.S. has almost tripled. About 32.5% of the trash is recycled or composted, 12.5% is burned and 55% is buried in landfills. (source: EPA)
  • The state of California ALONE spends about 25 million dollars sending plastic bags to landfills each year, and another 8.5 million dollars to remove littered bags from streets. (source: Clean Air Council)
  • Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove. (source: Clean Air Council)
  • The City of San Francisco determined that it costs 17 cents for them to handle each discarded bag. (source:  Sierra Club)
  • For every 10% recycled glass used to make new glass containers, energy costs drop 2-3 percent! (source:  EPA)
  • 8,000 lbs of waste are typically thrown into the landfill during the construction of a 2,000 square foot home (source: Construction Waste Recycling)

Aside from recycling our everyday mess, how do we reduce the amount of material waste going into the landfills and ultimately protect our earth?  Conventional building and remodeling practices use a lot of natural resources and create a lot of waste- actually construction of an average 2,000-square-foot home generates 3,000 pounds of wood, 2,000 pounds of drywall and 600 pounds of cardboard. Further, the construction of an average single-family home generates four pounds of waste per square foot. On average, only about 20%-30% of that waste is recycled or reused. (source:  NAHB Research CenterNational Trust for Historic Preservation)

How about build our homes, office buildings, education facilities, and government centers with a material that is fully fabricated, cut to length and width, in a controlled environment?  A material that comes to the job site ready for installers to install without the need to cut, frame and trim excessive amounts of lumber and other materials. The job-ready feature of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) reduces the amount of job site material waste by 60% when compared to buildings constructed with regular dimensional lumber and framing materials.  As an example, take a look at this custom residential building project in Salt Lake City, UTNOT ONE DUMPSTER WAS NEEDED FOR ON-SITE CONSTRUCTION WASTE.  Less waste is obviously better for our environment.

Speaking about trash, One morning I handed a bag of garbage to my sleepy seven-year-old daughter and told her to toss it in the trash bin on her way out the door.

Glancing out my window moments later, I saw her wearily boarding the bus. She was carrying her backpack, her lunchbox and a big white bag of garbage.

Written by:  Jeff Beason, Premier SIPS SW Regional Manager, LEED GA.

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