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If the U.S. stopped recycling and buried all of its municipal trash for the next 100 years in a single landfill that was 30 feet high, how much of the nation's land area would this cover?

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At the current U.S. population growth rate and the current per-person trash production rate, the landfill would cover 0.06% of the nation's land area. More realistically, the actual area in use will be an order of magnitude smaller, because (1) the U.S. recycles, burns, or composts 48% of its trash; (2) landfills can be more than 200 feet high; and (3) after 30 to 50 years, landfills are often covered and used for purposes such as parks, golf courses, ski slopes, and airfields. Despite these facts, media outlets have been reporting for more than 30 years that the U.S. is "nearly out of space" to dispose of trash.

DocumentationTrash & LandfillsCalculations

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