(NewsUSA) - The average American generates a lot of trash and recyclables -- about four pounds per day. That adds up to more than 250 million tons of trash every year, and more than a third of it gets recycled and repurposed into new products. Many Americans are working to expand recycling. Some communities are also beginning to divert food and yard waste out of their waste stream, and that could expand the amount of waste that is repurposed.
What happens with the rest of the waste?
Thanks to many advanced technological innovations, much of it goes to well-regulated, highly engineered modern landfills that are safer, smarter and greener than ever. These landfills feature high-tech, carefully monitored containment systems that reduce greenhouse gas output, control water and air emissions and minimize nuisances such as odor.
Strict federal regulations do not allow landfills in floodplains or wetlands or along fault lines. Layers of special liners and collection systems also prevent groundwater contamination.
"Landfills are an important and necessary tool for managing waste while protecting public health and the environment. Significant advancements such as gas collection have allowed us to enhance the value of landfilling with energy generation," said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association.
Landfill gas -- the source of most odors -- is controlled through collection and, in many cases, is converted into energy. Methane captured from landfills often is used as a form of green, renewable energy that can fuel vehicles or help power the electricity grid. Landfill-gas-to-energy projects also help ease our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. In the past year, these projects delivered enough energy to power nearly 2 million homes and businesses.
These facilities also generate stable, well-paying jobs in the communities that host them. Landfills are also an important part of the tax base in these communities.
For the Future
Looking ahead, today's landfills provide continued environmental benefits even after they are closed. Engineers and landscape designers transform these sites into parks, golf courses, wildlife refuges and other spaces that can be enjoyed by the entire community.
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