Thursday, June 11, 2020

America's Garbage Economy

Trump has called himself a “big believer in the environment” and insisted he wants “the cleanest water, the cleanest air”.

The US is far behind other industrialized nations on environmental performance and now ranks 24th in the world, according to a new analysis by Yale and Columbia universities. The US did better on air quality, ranking 16th, but the authors warned those rankings could fall as Trump officials have rescinded protections or declined to tighten them based on new research.

Denmark came in first place, followed by Luxembourg and Switzerland. The United Kingdom ranked fourth. The US is near the back of the pack for developed nations. 

“If you look at Denmark, they’re doing great but they’re a tiny fraction of overall carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions broadly,” said Zach Wendling, lead researcher on the index. “The US is one of the top five players in every greenhouse gas, so we need to do better than just OK if we’re going to generate the best practices.”

The USA,  ranked 15th on climate, is currently the second-biggest contributor to the climate crisis, after China. Over time, it has put more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere than any other nation.  In particular, the US scored poorly on protecting water resources and managing its waste.

On wastewater, the analysis considers how much of wastewater is treated before it is released into the environment and how much of the population is connected to a sewage system. The US is doing poorly on both counts.
About half of trash generated in the US is unaccounted for. Thousands of different entities handle trash collection, and the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the resources to gather data about what is being recycled, incinerated or sent to landfills. Colombia, by comparison, has centralized collection and tracks all of its waste.

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