Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. …One of the few relics of our civilization guaranteed to be recognizable twenty thousand years from now is the potato chip bag.” -Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

Nobody likes trash—so why do we see it everywhere? On the sides of roads, sidewalks, in cities, in forests, in the National Parks—it seems as if you can’t go anywhere with encountering an old plastic bottle, a candy wrapper, or a junk food paper bag.

Perhaps people who feel comfortable with not properly disposing of their waste don’t think about the long-term consequences of their actions. Maybe they think that their trash will decompose before long, or it won’t affect other people or wildlife. Or maybe they’re just… lazy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 11.16.30 AM Why buy disposable water bottles when you can purchase a single reusable bottle that lasts years?

Many products take surprisingly longer times to decompose than you may have thought. Here are some examples of the length of decomposition time for a few products.

  • Banana Peel – a month
  • Paper – a couple months
  • Cigarette Butt – 5 years
  • Disposable Diaper – 2 decades
  • Hard Plastic Container – 3 decades
  • Aluminum Can – 3 centuries
  • Plastic 6-pack Holder – 5 centuries
  • Glass Bottles – eons

Because animals are attracted to human food products, you can most likely be assured that some critter will encounter the piece of trash on the side of the road—which can lead to deadly consequences. According to the Humane Society, of the 250 million tons of trash produced by Americans each year, a significant amount inevitably ends up in the environment. The natural curiosity of many animals may lead them to consume, or become trapped or entangled by a piece of trash, seriously injuring or (in many cases) killing the animal—all because some people are too lazy to pack their trash out and dispose of it properly.

Nature Rules Sign

Animals may try to eat your trash, too. Clean up after yourself. 

Disposing of your waste properly does not entail letting it all go to the landfill—take a few moments and find a recycling or compost bin for your waste. Make sure that you sort your waste properly (not all plastic products will be recycled by your local facility!) and check that your recyclables are clean of any food residue before tossing them into the bin.

Remember—multiple generations of your family to come will have to live with the waste you produce today. CHOOSE to REUSE and RECYCLE. Hopefully we can be remembered by our accomplishments as a society rather than the mess we left for our children.  

Delaware North is committed to reducing waste production. You can find easy-sort recycling at all parks and resorts locations, as well as comprehensive compost programs, to help us reach our Zero Waste goals. 

Compostable Sign