Environmental Problems facts

  • In the past 50 years, humans have consumed more resources than in all previous history. U.S. EPA, 2009. Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead.
  • The way we produce, consume and dispose of our products and our food accounts for 42% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. EPA, 2009. Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices.
  • Between 1950 and 2005, worldwide metals production grew sixfold, oil consumption eightfold, and natural gas consumption 14-fold. In total, 60 billion tons of resources are now extracted annually—about 50% more than just 30 years ago. Today the average European uses 43 kilograms of resources daily, and the average American uses 88 kilograms. Worldwatch Institute, 2010. State of the World 2010.
  • Between 1970 and 1995, the U.S. represented about one-third of the world’s total material consumption. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 33% of paper, 25% of oil, 15% of coal, 17% of aluminum, and 15% of copper. U.S. EPA, 2009. Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead.
  • Nearly three quarters of what we throw away is products, with organic materials (food and yard waste) make up the remaining 25%. EPA, 2009. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008.
  • More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered in the United States each year, which comes out to 848 pieces per household. The production, distribution and disposal of all that junk mail creates over 51 million metric tons of greenhouses gases annually, the equivalent emissions of more than 9.3 million cars. ForestEthics, 2008. Climate Change Enclosed: Junk Mail’s Impact on Global Warming.
  • The U.S. buried or burned more than 166 million tons of resources—paper, plastic, metals, glass and organic materials—in landfills and incinerators in 2008. We recycled and composted only one-third of our discards. U.S. EPA, 2009. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States, Detailed Tables and Figures for 2008.
  • An estimated 144 billion beverage containers were landfilled, incinerated or littered in the United States in 2005, approximately two out of every three containers sold. This amounts to 54 billion aluminum cans, 52 billion plastic bottles and jugs, 30 billion glass bottles, and about 10 billion pouches, cartons, and drink boxes. Container Recycling Institute, 2007. Water, Water Everywhere: The growth of non-carbonated beverage containers in the United States.
  • Recycling, reuse and remanufacturing account for 3.1 million jobs in the U.S.—one out of every three green jobs. American Solar Energy Society, 2008. Defining, Estimating, and Forecasting the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Industries in the U.S and in Colorado.
  • Making copy paper from 100% recycled content fiber instead of 100% virgin forest fibers reduces total energy consumption by 44%, net greenhouse gas emissions by 38%, particulate emissions by 41%, wastewater by 50%, solid waste by 49% and wood use by 100%. Environmental Paper Network, 2007. State of the Paper Industry.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, Americans wasted a total of 7.1 million tons of cans, enough to manufacture 316, 000 Boeing 737 airplanes or enough to reproduce the world’s entire commercial airfleet 25 times. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, Americans have thrown away 910 billion cans worth over $25 billion in current dollars. Container Recycling Institute, 2002. Trashed Cans: The Global Environmental Impacts of Aluminum Can Wasting in America.
  • It only takes about 6 weeks total to manufacture, fill, sell, recycle, and then remanufacture an aluminum beverage can. U.S. EPA, 2010. Common Wastes & Materials: Aluminum.
  • Methane is 72 times more potent than CO2 over the short term, as measured by the 20-year time horizon. IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis.
  • The “hole” in the stratospheric ozone layer over the Antarctic – the layer that protects people from harmful ultraviolet radiation – is now the largest it has ever been and is not expected to recover until between 2060 and 2075. United Nations Environment Programme, 2007. Global Environment Outlook 4: Summary for Decision Makers.
  • Nearly 80% of the world’s energy comes from oil, coal, or gas. Worldwatch Institute, 2006. Vital Signs 2006-2007
  • Half the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone. U.S. EPA, 2009. Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead.
  • 75% of marine fisheries are now overfished or fished to capacity. U.S. EPA, 2009. Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead.
  • Only a few hundred of the more than 80, 000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety. President’s Cancer Panel, National Cancer Institute, 2010. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.
  • More than 2 million people globally die prematurely every year due to outdoor and indoor air pollution. United Nations Environment Programme, 2007. Global Environment Outlook 4: Summary for Decision Makers.
  • Coloradoans recycled 19.6% of our discards in 2008. Excluding scrap metal recycling, our recycling rate drops to 9.3%. We sent 6.8 million tons to landfills for disposal. We generated an average of 8.5 pounds of discarded materials per person per day, far above the national average. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2010. Annual Municipal Solid Waste Recycling and Diversion Totals.

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