Americans irresponsible eco-habits are killing the environment

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By Yerin Kim |Staff Writer|

As of 2013, Californians disposed an estimated 4.4 pounds of waste per person, per day, resulting in disposal of approximately 30.2 million tons per year, according to the solid waste disposal tonnage summary data by California’s department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

Americans’ environmentally irresponsible habits are accelerating to resource extinction and environmental destruction. The U.S. should improve environmental awareness and policies.

Many Americans throw leftover food away into one trash bin, along with disposable plates and spoons, and bag their purchases individually at outlets.

It is shocking to see the abuse of disposable items and the absence of recycling culture in the U.S.

Recycling is regarded as a civic duty in South Korea.

While it is not mandatory for most U.S. citizens to recycle their waste, except some cities or states like Connecticut, it is obligatory for Korean citizens to recycle because the Korean government arranges policies for recycling and imposes fines for not recycling.

In Korea, wastes are divided into three different types: recyclable, unrecyclable, and food wastes.

Recyclables are separated from unrecyclables and food wastes and placed in receptacles, which are divided according to materials: glass, vinyl, plastic, paper/cardboard/cartons, cans, scrap metal, plastic foam and bags.

For collection and disposal of the recyclable and food wastes, Korean residents must purchase food garbage bags and unrecyclable garbage bags of different sizes and prices from local government facilities.

People collect their food or unrecyclable wastes separately and throw them away at designated areas.

The Korean government also establishes restrictions on the use of disposable products.

According to the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources, the Korean government prohibits the use of disposable dining ware and restricts free distribution of disposable products.

To reduce the use of plastic bags, the Korean government promotes the use of shopping baskets and implemented a reward system, allowing those who return their used plastic bags to get a refund.

Collected wastes are reused after disposal treatment.

Recyclable wastes are separated and compressed by recyclers according to type, and are sold by new material manufacturing.

Unrecyclable wastes are sent to incineration facilities, which are equipped with the resource recovery system, which reduce negative impacts to the surrounding environment and produce heat and energy to nearby areas.

Collected food wastes are used for animal feed or fertilizer.

In contrast, unrecycled waste in the U.S. is disposed of in landfills without reuse, cutting the possibility of sustainable resource development and producing a significant source of methane—a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Such different environmental policies between these two countries are attributed to geographical size and the availability of resources.

Since South Korea has a small territory and few natural resources, the country doesn’t have enough land for waste disposal, making recycling and resource recovery systems crucial.

In comparison, the U.S. takes a huge amount of territory and natural resources, so the government and citizens barely recognize the need of recycling and reusing.

Environmental policies vary depending on the city or state governments.

The environmental problem and waste management is not well covered in American schools.

In South Korea, the environmental problems and waste management are taught comprehensively as a chapter in mandatory ethics classes from elementary to high school.

American public schools teach students how to recycle briefly in their schooling. Americans are generally unaware of the disposal and treatment of waste in landfills and incineration facilities.

The U.S. government should prioritize environmental awareness and natural resource problems by providing more recycling education from elementary school to college. As a course of action, teachers should practice recycling to set an example to the students they teach.

In addition, the U.S. government should establish environmental policies and regulations on a national level, and impose fines for not recycling, allowing people to recognize its significance. It is undoubtable to fine the environmentally irresponsible persons, unless we want to pay for them at the end of the world.

Some people argue that the government would have to pay a lot to check whether people are recycling or not, which is a waste of money. In my opinion, it is absolutely more costly to deal with the devastated environment.

The environment and natural resources are invaluable and non-renewable.

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