You have heard it all before: We produce too much garbage and need to reduce our impact on the earth. Even knowing that we are running out of space in landfills in Japan and across much of Europe and that there are huge patches of garbage in the ocean, it can be hard to visualize the true magnitude of our waste creation. Even worse? We have been leaving junk in space as well. If you want to understand the size of our trash problem, start by picturing an average trash can, like the kind your class might have filled up in grade school. It won’t be pretty, but using a trash can for scale we can truly visualize what our trash problem looks like on a global, and even cosmic, scale.
- The International Space Station is 220 Miles from Earth.
- Circumference of the Earth: 24,901 Miles. The amount of trash we produce every year would fill enough trash cans that, laying end to end, would wrap around the earth 1.46 times.
- Circumference of the moon: 6,786 Miles. The amount of trash we produce every year would fill enough trash cans that, laying end to end, would wrap around the moon 5.36 times.
- Every year we produce 2.6 Trillion pounds of trash, enough to fill trash cans that would reach 36,402 miles into space.
- Distance from the Earth to the moon: 238,900 Miles
- *The average 32-gallon trash can hold 75 pounds of trash.
How Much Trash?
- The International Space Station (ISS) produces around 15,200 pounds of trash a year enough to fill 202 32-gallon trashcans.
- So far we've left 11,000,000 pounds of junk in space enough to fill 146,666 32-gallon trashcans.
- Globally we produce 2.6 trillion pounds of trash every year, enough to fill about 60,545,454,451 32-gallon trashcans.
We Can Do Better
Even though humans are just one part of the Earth’s ecosystem, our impact is massive. In fact, every year humans move more than 10 times the material as all the natural forces of wind, earthquakes, and water combined. There is no doubt that we will have better technology for recycling, reusing, and composting in the future, but it is also key to remember that we can reduce our impact by properly disposing of waste today. About 75% of waste in America is recyclable but we only recycle about 30% of it. We can do better, so long as we understand the magnitude of the problem.