It is no surprise that the United States has the world’s largest economy, most powerful military, most prominent pop culture. But did you know it is also one of the world’s largest waste-producing nations?
According to The Guardian, the US generates way more waste and recycles far less than other nations. Americans alone are accountable for generating a whopping 277 million tons of waste every year. This number is far more than any other country’s garbage production in the world.
On the other hand, Germany is the most efficient country when it comes to recycling its waste. At the moment, Germany recycles more than 68% of its garbage. They do so through recycling initiatives led by government and private institutions.
In the 1980s, the Mobro 400, a 3,100-ton garbage barge that set sail from New York, became the token of the surreal amount of waste created in America. The Mobro 4000 traveled for six months in search of a place where to dispose of its garbage.
The garbage barge traveled from New York To North Carolina, Louisiana, Mexico, Belize, and places in the Bahamas. All countries rejected the Mobro 4000’s cargo. After six months of failing to find a successful destination, the garbage barge returned to New York, and its cargo got incinerated.
During those six months, the Mobro 4000 failed to find a place to dispose of its 3,100-ton of garbage. Yet, the garbage barge was hugely successful in raising awareness about waste in corporate America.
More than forty years have passed since the Mobro 4000 incident. Yet, the story remains one of the most powerful symbols for the need for recycling and the importance of waste management.
What Is Waste Management?
The waste produced by human activities has terrible consequences for our environment. Waste pollutes and harms entire ecosystems. Plastic in the ocean, for instance, harms marine life’s supply chain – which then ends up harming humans.
Humans are producing too much garbage that is not biodegradable. Therefore, it cannot be dealt with sustainably. The increasing amount of garbage countries are creating is filling our seas and lands. As a result, waste management is the crucial need of the hour.
Waste management, or more commonly known as waste disposal, involves the practical actions required to manage waste from its initial formation to its final discarding.
It consists of the compilation, transportation, treatment, and dumping of waste. For it to be successful, waste needs to be carefully monitored and regulated throughout its lifetime.
The following are some of the numerous advantages of creating and managing waste.
Cleaner and More Circular Environment
Implementing waste management practices in any organization helps create cleaner ecosystems by recycling disposed of products. Surprisingly, waste Management practices also contribute to the well-being of the people.
There is an increasing number of fishes that have died due to their inability to digest microplastics. Those that survive, on the other hand, end up in the human food supply. Therefore, we end up eating microplastics.
The proper disposal of waste facilitates the recycling process. Recycling enables products to have a second life by being reused rather than ending up in landfills. As a result, a circular economy can be achieved through efficient waste management techniques.
Waste Management Decreases Pollution
When the trash is managed effectively, it eradicates the subsequent waste production. Waste management decreases the effect and intensity of toxic greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane emitted from piled-up garbage in landfills.
Managing garbage then helps reduce our reliance on landfills. The environment will be the most benefitted from reducing the number of pollutants in the atmosphere.
Waste Management Practices Reduces Carbon in the Atmosphere
Recycling products is one of the best ways of managing waste. Over time, recycling also helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Recycling paper, for instance, is one of those processes that heavily saves energy. Daily, thousands of trees are cut down to produce paper. When used paper is recycled to generate new paper, the need to bring down trees loses arguments.
The more trees there are in the world, the more regulated the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is. Just as it happens with paper, recycling in general heavily contributes to limit carbon emissions.
What Does The Mobro 4000 Incident Have to do With Waste Management?
The Mobro garbage barge’s odyssey is a shameful incident.
The garbage barge, owned by Mobro Marine Inc., left New York in 1987 carrying 3,100 tons of rotting trash, medical garbage, old tires, cardboard cartons, and other junk from local organizations and businesses. The ship sailed along the North and South American coasts for months seeking a location to unload its cargo.
After contacting several cities, no one allowed the Mobro 4000 to unload its cargo on their territory. The story was front-page news for weeks and caused considerable public discussion and finger-pointing. During this journey, the local press often called the Mobro 4000 the “Gar-barge.”
This incident highlighted the fact that the world was creating trash faster than it could find space to dispose of it for the first time. And if this trend continues, we would all be buried one day under a giant pile of junk.
If consumer overconsumption and wastefulness continue, it’s more than likely that the world will soon face a considerable challenge managing its growing amount of waste.
How Mobro 4000 Incident Created Awareness About Waste in America
In the 1980s, there was a shortage of landfill space due to the closure of several municipal landfills due to new EPA restrictions.
The Mobro garbage barge spent 155 days traveling around the coasts of North and South America, seeking a spot to deposit its 3,100 tonnes of waste.
The Mobro incident raised Americans’ awareness of the need for recycling. After the incident, recycling gradually gained traction to reduce the growing stream of human waste and the pollution created from the disposal of products.
How to Reduce Waste in Corporate America
The most efficient approach to reduce waste in corporate America is to produce less of it in the first place. The most significant environmental and financial benefits come from waste prevention.
Reduce. Organizations can change their current practices to reduce waste by altering the design, manufacturing, purchasing, or usage of materials or products. For example, companies may encourage staff to print only what they need and configure printer settings to print double-sided by default to conserve paper.
Reuse. Reusing items and packaging extends their useful lives, postponing their eventual disposal or recycling. Repairing, refurbishing, cleaning, or simply recovering old or used items, appliances, furniture, and construction materials is referred to as reuse. One may avoid managing the disposal of many coffee cups by encouraging occupants to utilize reusable coffee mugs instead of single-use, disposable cups.
Donate. Organizations can give surplus goods or supplies to those who need them the most. Restaurants, motels, and cafeterias, for example, can provide utilize their surplus supplies and foods to help the homeless. Many local food banks will pick up donated food for free, saving them money on storage and disposal.
We Don’t Need Another 3,100-ton Garbage Barge to Start Recycling
The Mobro 4000 certainly failed in its quest to unload its cargo. After six months of traveling, it faced no other option than returning to New York and burning its waste.
Such a worldwide incident had to happen for businesses and other organizations to take their waste management practices seriously. If we continue waiting for such incidents and controversies to wake us up from the bubble we live in, what’s going to be next?
The world’s climate crisis can no longer afford such events. It’s time for both businesses and individuals to start taking action now. Our approach to climate change ought to be proactive, not reactive.
We ought to start recycling, reusing, donating, and controlling our waste. The future of humankind depends on it.