THE FUTURE OF
According to the EPA, the United States generated approximately 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2007. Numbers provided by the EPA as well as the European Environment Agency of the European Union show detailed reports of the wasteful tendencies of Western Society. How does America’s trash stack up against the European Union’s? Per capita, the average American produces 4.62 lbs of trash daily compared to 2.91 lbs generated by the average consumer from an EU country. Durable goods account for 45.4 million tons or 17.9% of MSW. After recycling efforts 37.4 million tons of these durable goods remained in the landfill. Durable goods are defined by the EPA as goods that have a usable lifespan of greater than 3 years, compared to non-durable goods which are defined as having a lifespan of less than 3 years.
How do we decrease this number?—it starts with consumer demand for products that are recyclable. We also need to be demanding products that are made with recycled materials—the higher the recycled content the better.
According to reports conducted by the EPA, furniture accounts for over 9 million tons of waste in our landfills. Conventional furniture takes advantage of cheap materials such as plywood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) which allow manufactures to cut costs, but also create a downward spiral for our landfills and the furniture stacking up within them.
Not only is conventional furniture adding countless amounts to our landfills, it is slowly poisoning us. The culprit—formaldehyde. These products are readily available on the shelves of nearly every retail store, and because of this fact it is hard to find a home without these products.
The toxins that surface in these products such as bookcases, end tables, and computer desks are considered Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Formaldehyde is readily found in particle board and MDF and is used as a binding agent to allow the wood chips and fibers to adhere to each other.
This binding process produces what is known as “off-gassing” which is toxic and a less than desirable byproduct of creating household furniture.
These are potentially life threatening chemicals to individuals with upper respiratory problems such as asthma. Sealants are commonly used to keep formaldehyde at bay in products that take advantage of particle board, but with excessive use, cutting, age, or simply getting banged up in a common redesign project, toxins surface and are potentially life threatening to individuals with respiratory problems or those who are at higher risk such as children and the elderly.
So what can we do? It seems as if we have little choice in the matter, but things are looking up. There is a new material out that is replacing conventional particle board which is made 100% of post consumer recycled paper and 100% recyclable.
The concept comes from a combination of multiple technologies using the most desirable features of paperboard (recycled content), plywood (strength), and corrugation technology (light weight). All of which allow consumers and manufacturers the possibility for the lack of constraints when putting this material to use. This new material will be used in couches, bed-side tables, computer desks, and so-on. What is it called?—zBoard.
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