What would you do if no one came to pick up your trash? Or your neighbors' trash? What if no one picked up the trash anywhere in your entire community?
Would you let it pile up? At first it would look like this street in Manhattan. The pile would get bigger, and start to smell really bad. Animals would get into it, making a bigger mess. What are you going to do with it?
It's something we're facing as a nation, since countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia will no longer be accepting waste imports from the U.S., which for years sent nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables to China every day, according to USA Today, and most of what Americans conscientiously put in their recycling bins wasn't even recycled because it was contaminated (things like food and shampoo prevent plastic waste from being recycled.)
In municipalities around the U.S., the recyclables are starting to pile up, with some facilities so overrun that they have stopped sorting through it, and are sending it to the landfill instead.
Reducing consumption and waste is the first step to solving the problem. In 2015, Americans generated 262.4 million tons of trash. More than half, 137.7 million tons, ended up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
So what is all this trash we are throwing away? Based on data on municipal solid waste from the EPA, and the data crunchers at title lender TitleMax, this is all the trash one American produces in one year.