Trash in America

Moving From Destructive Consumption To A Zero-Waste System

A report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Frontier Group and Toxics Action Center
Abi Bradford, Sylvia Broude and Alexander Truelove

America produces an immense amount of garbage—seven pounds of material per person every single day. To protect public health, conserve natural resources and address global warming, America must transition from its current linear materials economy to a circular system that produces zero waste.

Click and drag the slider to compare a linear materials economy to a zero-waste economy.

What Is A Zero-Waste Economy?

A zero-waste economy is one in which less is consumed, all products are built to last and are easy to reuse and repair, and all materials are reused, recycled and composted in a continuous cycle. It is also known as a “circular,” or “closed-loop” economy.

This system will protect public health and the environment, conserve natural resources and landscapes, and address the mounting crisis of global warming. To achieve this goal, federal, state and local governments should enact policies and programs that offer incentives for moving to a zero-waste economy.

What Is Our Current System Of Consumption?

With its linear materials economy, the United States produces an immense amount of waste.

Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S.—often only briefly—before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment. This system of consumption and disposal results in the waste of precious resources and pollution that threatens our health, environment and global climate.

The costs of this system fall on society at large—not on the producers and consumers that drive it. As a result, there are few direct incentives to change to a zero-waste economy.

    Linear To Circular

    America should move toward an economic system characterized by zero waste.

    8 slide

    America has the tools to shift away from this wasteful, polluting and costly linear system to a circular economy that produces zero waste, conserves natural resources, and limits pollution and global warming emissions.

    10 Steps To A Zero-Waste Economy

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