December 29, 2009

Our throwaway economy . . .

Is most evident in our trashcans. Throwaway products were first conceived following World War II as a convenience and a way of creating jobs. 

However, there may not be enough readily accessible lead, tin, copper, iron ore, or bauxite to sustain the throwaway economy beyond another generation or two. Assuming an annual 2 percent growth in extraction, a U.S. Geological Survey shows the world has 17 years of reserves remaining for lead, 19 years for tin, 25 years for copper, 54 years for iron ore, and 68 years for bauxite.

For a long time, we have been saying that the United States, with 5 percent of the world’s people, consumes a third or more of the earth’s resources. But China now consumes more basic resources than the United States. If each person in China continues to consume paper at the current American rate, China’s 1.46 billion people will consume more paper by 2030 than the world produces today. That should be a wake-up call to all of us to reduce, reuse, and recycle.