A new survey shows Americans are ``generally uninformed, or misinformed, about what's in their garbage, about what happens to their garbage after it's collected, and about what impact current policies have on the environment,' Citizens for the Environment said Thursday.
A national survey of 1,001 adults conducted by the Roper Organization for the market-oriented CFE showed:One-third falsely said 100 percent of materials collected for recycling are recycled, and another third admit they don't know what happens to that material. Stephen Gold, executive director of CFE, said only about 20 percent of material collected for recycling is usable, and the rest must be disposed of some other way.
Half said a landfill as far as 10 miles from their home could threaten their health and lower their property values. Four out of ten felt the same about a waste-to-energy facility that far away. But Gold said the Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that the risk to someone living right next to a modern landfill or incinerator ``is 35 times less than the lifetime risk of being killed by lightning.'
Half the respondents didn't know how much it costs to handle their garbage. That included nine-tenths of those who lived in places where collection is paid out of taxes, instead of fees.
``The public just doesn't understand what's going on,' Gold said.
``We advocate pay-as-you-throw policies, in which people would become aware of the full costs of their garbage, by charging them collection fees based on the volume of trash they produce,' Gold said. ``People would create less garbage and recycle more, if you did that.'
He was asked at a news conference if it would be fair to charge a family of seven living in a poor neighborhood seven times as much as a rich single person for garbage collection.
``If a family of seven uses seven times as much food as a single person, it pays seven times as much,' he replied. ``When you use resources (including garbage and trash disposal), you should pay the real cost of using those resources.'
He said society still had the option to raise the large family's income. At all income levels, he said, people would be forced to choose between paying higher fees or reducing their own fees by recycling, by conservation or by refusing to buy products that led to abnormal volumes of trash.
CFE was founded in January by the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, which, according to Gold, receives 70 percent of its contributions from individuals and the rest from foundations and corporations.