Health effects of excess trash

Health effects of excess trash

Everyone knows that they should be recycling more, but for most of us, we don’t do it as much as we should. In the previous post I outlined how much trash is produced by an average family, (it’s a lot), and that it is vital that we keep our trash from ending up in nature. Trash that doesn’t end up in landfills finds its way into the food stream in various ways. Microplastic beads, like those that come in body scrubs, slowly poison small fish that think it’s food. Larger items can also be eaten by mistake, for example sea turtles eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish. These are a few obvious signs of the harm that trash can create, but they don’t paint the full picture. Trash also poses a threat to human health. 


The fumes and gases that come from landfills negatively affects the respiratory systems of those living close by. Children are often the most at risk to developing these breathing issues, with rates significantly higher than average. In addition, many studies have been done that show cancer rates go up for everyone that lives near landfills. Globally, around 15 million people live inside landfills, and with a life expectancy of 35 years our trash is killing them. As trash continues to decompose, it also creates toxic liquid waste that can leak into the groundwater. This can be especially deadly if there are large amounts of heavy metals, like from batteries or old tvs, present. While groundwater contamination can be dealt with, it has long lasting impacts on the health of people and the environment. 


There is no magic bullet to the issues that our excess trash creates. There are loads of things that we can do to help the situation and be healthier. Paper makes up a large portion of trash in landfills, up to 50%, if we recycle this instead, we will need less landfills. We need to monitor what goes into our landfills, properly disposing of items that contain dangerous chemicals. We will continue to produce tremendous amounts of trash for the foreseeable future, but we can do more to mitigate its harmful effects on us and our environment.  


  • Reduce consumption, try to only buy what you need. 
  • Purchase less single use goods, they go straight in the trash, reuse instead when possible. 
  • Recycle potentially toxic items like batteries, lightbulbs, tvs, etc.. 
  • Explore nature, evidence suggests that being in nature has health benefits, 2 hours a week is the amount of time that makes the most difference. 

Post by Jeremy Brown