Slower economy, less garbage? Looks like it

I posted a story recently from a Public Insight Network source who told us she and her husband were planning to get rid of their trash pickup, in part, to save money in this economy.

The question surfaced: Do we chuck less garbage in a recession? At that point, I was armed only with a recent National Public Radio story showing the amount of stuff we throw out drops dramatically in bad economic times.

Got a little Minnesota data now, courtesy of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The most recent report uses 2007 data but still useful. Says:

During the robust years of 1994 to 1998, Minnesota saw a 4.62 percent increase in MSW (municipal solid waste) generation and a 3.4 percent increase in per capita generation.

In 1999, those rates began to slow during a downturn in the economy. In 2006, MSW generation growth slowed to an all-time low–increasing just 0.3 percent. In 2007, MSW generation growth is up slightly by just 0.8 percent. Per capita generation of MSW remained roughly the same (1.166 tons in 2006 and 1.167 tons in 2007).

It’s hard to scientifically prove that waste generation strongly correlates to the economy, but over the last few years waste generation per capita has leveled out to basically a 0% increase, adds Colleen Hetzell with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Overall, though, Minnesota’s still producing more waste.

I wouldn’t advise getting rid of your trash service entirely because there are items that are generated that can’t be avoided, ” Hetzell adds. “In that case, after you have exhausted your options to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, you would need to properly dispose of the items in the trash.

Tell me if you’re cutting back to save money or help the environment or both. If you’re looking for tips to cut your waste, check out this site from the Minnesota PCA.

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