5.1% Special materials
1.1% Mixed residue
0.2% Household hazardous wasteThus, it follows that if we cut back on paper waste by recycling, plastics ditto, and organic scraps (of which 14.9% are kitchen waste), we will be doing a lot to reduce landfill and cut back manufacturing-related pollution.
Note that in addition to paper comprising the large bulk of waste matter that it does, scrap paper is also one of America's largest export items. Thus, as we recycle paper, we not only reduce manufacturing-related air pollution, but we also cut back on fossil fuel use related to transporting the used paper. There's often more than immediately meets the eye, isn't there.
We also can help a lot by using salvaged materials for home building, such as scrapped metal and wood materials.
The link above contains information about which percentages from the construction industry are wood, which are metal, etc so if you are building a home and want to know about the greenest way you can possibly do it, go to the California Integrated Waste Management's report linked above for further info.
All I can say is that when my husband and I began to recycle, we immediately noticed that our garbage reduced by literally 50%, overnight. So in fact, according to our experience, recycling reduced our contribution to landfill even more than the chart above would indicate. (We had already been reusing our yogurt containers before we began our full-fledged recycling practice at home).
Then we started to compost and once again, we found ourselves dumping literally half as much garbage as before. So once again, in our practical experience we were able to reduce our load by even more than the charts above would have led us to believe. Between composting and recycling, our garbage was reduced literally 75%! We now are down to two small shopping bags of garbage per week, for the two of us put together. Unless, of course, we have a party or Thanksgiving dinner!
For those of us who are lucky enough to have a back yard large enough to accommodate a compost pile, composting can be a rewarding experience in many ways. As soon as we began to compost, I noticed lots more dragon flies in our yard (they're beautiful!), lots more geckos, more ants aerating the soil, more life in general. It confirmed what I intuitively felt since the moment we began to compost: It was doing something very beneficial for the environment, like culturing yogurt does by proliferating friendly bacteria. Similarly, it would seem that composting promotes insect and other life, improving soil conditions not only by nutrients as the compost is spread, but by aeration of the soil from insects, worms et al. It's a really good feeling to be contributing to the environment in this way!
According to a plaque at the local 4th of July County Fair, California will dump enough garbage over a three-year period (or was it ten years?) to fill a gap four stories high, fifteen miles long and half a mile wide. Now, whether the figures reflect a three-year or even a ten-year period, that's a LOT of garbage!
Think how much we all can save in landfill by cutting back our residential garbage 50%. As in, recycling. It's simple to do, and can be done by those living in the cities just as easily as anyone living in the boonies.
Then we can cut back even more by composting, if we are in an area which will support that.