But the larger problem of waste today is not acute. It is chronic and diffuse. Like the problem of climate change, it gathers force slowly and is easily foisted off onto future generations to worry about. The average of 1.3 tons of trash each American generates in a year is carved up into weekly curbside pickups that conveniently seem to disappear, masking our world-beating wastefulness.
But, you may ask, if we’re not running out of landfill space, why should we care that the average American makes 7.1 pounds of trash a day while the average Japanese makes only 2.5 pounds? Why not just keep building mountains out of garbage and not worry about it?