When getting rid of excess trash, food scraps, or seeking junk removal in Denver, it’s important to understand your options for disposal; some are much healthier options for the environment than others. While dumping in a landfill may seem like the most convenient option, it’s certainly the most destructive. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per the most recent annual report from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, U.S. landfills released an estimated 109.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of methane into the atmosphere in 2020, which represents 16.8 percent of the total U.S. anthropogenic methane emissions across all sectors. 

A study from UC Boulder’s Environmental Center states methane gas is one of the leading causes of climate change, being 84 times more effective at absorbing the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide. Also, when a landfill is built, (600 acres in size on average), it destroys the natural habitats of plants and wildlife. There are more than 3,000 active landfills in the U.S., accounting for nearly 2 million acres of natural habitat lost. 

Though the numbers are daunting, there are some ways you can help by using alternative methods of waste removal that don't contribute to landfills. Below is a breakdown of some eco-friendlier options to opt for instead. 

1. Recycle Religiously 

This is the easiest way to make a positive impact on landfill pollution. Recycling materials like paper, glass and plastic bottles, cardboard, aluminum cans, and other metals can help cut down on the amount of trash you’re dumping, and allow the materials to be reused in the future. Some common household items to recycle include: 

Most plastic materials  
Milk or juice cartons
Cans and bottles 
Old clothes 
Egg cartons 
Paper plates and cups (don’t use these anway) 

The EPA estimates that up to 75 percent of U.S. waste is recyclable, though we only recycle about 30 percent. Increasing your discipline on recycling at home is the best way to make an immediate impact on cutting down food waste. Don’t recycle styrofoam, plastic bags, cords, bubble wrap, hazardous materials, batteries, diapers, and more. 

2. Try Composting  

An increasingly popular practice in the United States and around the world, composting is the natural process of breaking down organic matter and waste, such as food scraps like apple cores and coffee grounds, into a compartment (usually a box or sphere) that fertilizes and improves soil. Usually, mulch or wood chips are added to provide a better carbon:nitrogen ratio in the composter. Some benefits of composting, according to the EPA, include: 

Organic waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.
Compost reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.
Compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.
Compost can help aid reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
More benefits here. 

The common measurement for measuring waste by the EPA is municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2018, the total MSW that was composted was 25 million tons, with 22.3 million tons of yard trimmings and 2.6 million tons of food. These numbers indicate the U.S. has come a long way in composting: food composting was virtually nonexistent in 1990, rising to 2.2 percent in 2000 (600,000 tons), 5.3 percent in 2015 (2.1 millions tons), to 6.3 percent in 2017 (2.6 million tons). 

More and more Americans are composting each year, making the practice a promising and emerging alternative to food waste. 

3. Hire A Junk Removal Company

Unsure about where to take your junk, or if you can recycle it or not? Denver junk haulers have emerged as safeguards to dumping junk in landfills or other illegal dumping sites. 

Junk removal companies can collect compostables, recyclables, old furniture, or a number of other discarded items for residential or commercial properties. Some common items junk removal companies will pick up include: 

Box springs
Filing cabinets
Construction waste 
Bagged garbage 
Scrap metal 

4. Donate Clothes & Furniture

Rather than recycle or junk old clothes or furniture, consider donating to charities, thrift stores, homeless shelters, or other organizations. Clothes are a notorious contributor to U.S. landfills, and it’s estimated that around 85 percent of textiles in the U.S. are dumped in landfills or burned. 

According to BBC Future, the average American is believed to throw away 37 kilograms (roughly 82 pounds) of clothing every year. Globally, an estimated 92 million tons of clothing waste is created each year, the equivalent of a full garbage truck of clothes finding its way into landfills every second. Across the world, only 12 percent of materials used to make clothing is recycled. 

The EPA estimates nearly 9 tons of furniture are thrown away each year, around five percent of the debris in landfills. If avoidable, donate your clothes and furniture to a home that needs them more. 

5. Eliminate Plastic & Paper Products From The Home 

This may sound like an obvious solution, but up to 380 million metric tons of plastic are still being produced yearly. Below are some stats about plastic use in the U.S. and beyond.

Americans purchase 50 billion plastic water bottles per year, which averages to 13 plastic bottles per American per month 
5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year globally 
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate completely 
Using a reusable water bottle could save 156 plastic bottles each year 
Americans use half a billion plastic straws each day 
The world uses 500 billion plastic cup every year 
14 million tons of plastic find their way into our oceans every year (not an eco-friendly alternative to landfills) 
Approximately 91 percent of plastic is not recycled

Recycling plastic simply doesn’t work like it should, and can’t keep up with the rates in which we produce and use plastic each year. Ending the use of plastic bags, water bottles, containers, and other materials can directly impact the amount of plastic in landfills, small as your contribution may be.