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The effect of garbage on earth

The trend to “Save the Turtles” has been viral for the majority of 2019. People were encouraged to start using metal straws instead of the one-time use of plastic straws, as citizens became aware of the plastic build up in the oceans. 

A study done in 2015 by Jenna Jambeck and Miriam Perryman concluded that about 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic entered into the ocean in the year 2010 and another study by Laurent Lebreton, Joost van der Zwet, Jan-Willem Damsteeg, Boysan Slat, Anthony Andrady and Julia Reisser from 2017 estimates about 1.15 to 2.41 million tons of plastic waste enters into the ocean every year.

There is currently an enormous pile of garbage floating in the ocean— so big that scientists have named it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—comprised of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. 

In 2013, around 299 million tons of plastics were produced and around 300 million tons of plastics were consumed in 2015, according to Worldwatch Institute. 

Yet for plastic products to decompose, it would take about 1,000 years to decompose fully in landfills. Plastic bags take about 10 to 20 years, while plastic bottles take around 450 years to decompose. Paper waste takes around two to six weeks to completely decompose in landfills, while cardboard usually takes about two months.

Food waste has also become a critical issue in America. USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is being wasted each year. In 2010, about 133 billion pounds of food—the monetary value of $161 billion—was wasted. Food waste is the largest waste item going into municipal landfills and is the third largest source of methane release in the United States.

An apple core or banana peel takes up to a month to decompose, while an orange peel will take about six months to decompose fully.

“I thought that littering food was alright because it’s natural,” said Emily Franklin, senior biomedical chemistry major. “However, I read a study that said that littering food was not natural for the environment because each environment differs in its ecosystem. If you throw out an apple core on the highway, apple trees may not naturally grow there. The environment might be changed.”

While it is near impossible to not produce waste, putting waste in its correct receptacle helps stop waste going into oceans and unnecessary landfills.