The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Strategic CSR - Earth Day

Here are some interesting thoughts to keep in mind over the weekend in observance of Earth Day on Sunday (http://www.earthday.org/2012). In particular, the article in the url below presents some updated facts on the amount of waste that is generated in the U.S.:

The nation's official trash tally [found in the Environmental Protection Agency's exhaustive annual compendium "Municipal Solid Waste in the United States] … maintains that the average American tosses out 4.4 pounds of trash a day, with about a third getting recycled and the rest going to landfills. … Americans actually throw out much more than the EPA estimates, a whopping 7.1 pounds a day, and that less than a quarter of it gets recycled.

The consequences of the amount of waste we produce is significant:
  • “At 7.1 pounds of trash a day, each of us is on track to produce a staggering 102 tons of waste in an average lifetime.
  • American communities on average spend more money on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, according to U.S. Census data on municipal budgets.”

In addition to the waste itself, however, our current disposal systems are inefficient. There is a great deal of value discarded along with the remnants of our materialistic society:

The chief executive of Waste Management, the world's largest trash company, estimates that there is at least $20 billion in valuable resources locked inside the materials buried in U.S. landfills each year, if only we had the technology to recover it cost effectively.

Needless to say, it doesn’t have to be this way:

Other countries with big economies and high standards of living have rejected the disposable products that make up so much of America's garbage—in part because European countries hold manufacturers, not taxpayers, responsible for the costs of packaging waste. With that sort of incentive, toothpaste tubes need not come in redundant cardboard boxes and television sets can leave the store with no boxes at all. The average Dane makes four pounds of trash a day, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; the average Japanese generates 2.5 pounds. … Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark all send less than 4% of their garbage to landfills; Germany does no landfilling at all. Recycling rates there are two to three times America's, and the rest of their trash goes to waste-to-energy plants.