50 Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Your Trash

Recycling Statistics

Landfills are pretty ugly. And although they are camouflaged fairly well in most circumstances, the negative issues that accompany them remain…despite how hidden they may seem.

Underneath the makeup that’s been plastered on landfills, lies toxins, greenhouse gases, and leachate – all of which present concerning threats to our planet. If we want to leave this planet for our future generations, it’s critical that we have a proactive recycling plan in place – whether that’s in the office, in your community, or in your home.

Because of this, I wanted to focus on some key statistics that will allow you to think differently about the current way our population is disposing of its trash and the current problems that lie within its current practices.

Recyling Facts

1. Only about one-tenth of all solid waste in the United States gets recycled.

2. Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.

3. Although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, we only recycle around 30% of it.

4. A single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours. It also creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution that would be created when making a new bottle.

5. Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as it takes to burn it.

6. It only takes 5 recycled plastic bottles to make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.

7. Motor oil never wears out, just gets dirty – it can be recycled.

8. The U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5%. If we’re able to get the rate to 75%, the effect will be similar to removing 50 million passenger cars from U.S. roads.

9. Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year.

10. The leading cities for recycling in the US are (#1) San Francisco, CA (#2) Boston, MA (#3) Chicago, IL (#4) Denver, CO and (#5) Portland, OR.

11. The leading countries for recycling rates are: (#1) Switzerland [52%] (#2) Australia [49.7%] (#3) Germany [48%] (#4) Netherlands [46%] and (#5) Norway [40%]. The United States comes in around 31.5%.

12. 9 out of 10 people said they would recycle if it were “easier”.

13. Studies indicate that women typically express more concern for the environment and are more likely to recycle than men on average.

14. The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.


Plastic Facts

15. In the United States, we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – about 42,000 per minute, and about 695 per second.

16. It takes 500 years for average sized water bottles to fully decompose.

17. The amount of plastic film and wrap produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas.

18. The energy it takes to make 1.5 million tons of plastic could power 250,000 homes.

19. There are 25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.

20. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.

21. Plastics cause more than 80% of the negative effects on animals associated with ocean trash.

22. Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.


Glass Facts

23. Glass bottles take 4,000 years to decompose.

24. Glass, like aluminum, is infinitely recyclable – without any loss in purity or quality.

25. Glass bottles have been reduced in weight approximately 40% over the past 30 years.

26. Recycled glass is substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.

27. An estimated 80% of all glass containers recovered for recycling are re-melted in furnaces, and used in the manufacture of new glass containers.  

28. Glass container manufacturers hope to achieve 50 percent recycled content in the manufacture of new glass bottles. This achievement would save enough energy to power 21,978 homes for one year and while removing over 181 tons of waste from landfills on a monthly basis.


Aluminum Facts

29. Americans use 65 billion aluminum soda cans each year.

30. In only three months enough aluminum cans are thrown out in the United States to rebuild our commercial air fleets.

31. Aluminum cans make up less than 1% of waste in the United States because they are the #1 recycled item.

32. There is no limit to the number of times you can recycle an aluminum can.

33. After recycling, an aluminum can is usually repurposed within 60 days.

34. Recycling just two aluminum cans saves the same amount of energy it takes to power a PC for a single workday.

35. You can make 20 new cans from recycled material using the same amount of energy that it takes to make 1 brand new can.


Paper Facts

36. While the United States celebrates the holidays, Americans produce an additional 5 million tons of waste (four million of the 5 million tons consists of wrapping paper and shopping bags).

37. The majority of the 4 million tons of junk mail that Americans receive annually ends up in landfills.

38. The energy used to create and distribute junk mail in the US for one day could heat 250,000 homes.

39. On average, Americans use 650 pounds of paper a year.

40. U.S. businesses use around 21 million tons of paper every year.

41. The United States throws out the amount of office paper it would take to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City (2,794 miles).

42. Americans make nearly 400 billion photocopies a year or 750,000 copies every minute.

43. The average office worker in the United States goes through roughly 500 disposable cups annually.

44. Making new paper from recycled materials uses less energy than producing paper from virgin tree products and leaves more trees to absorb excess carbon dioxide.

45. For every one ton of paper that’s produced, roughly 390 gallons of oil is used to make it.

46. 1 trillion pages of paper equal 8.5 million acres of trees. That is an area greater than the state of Maryland.

47. 2,000 pounds (or 1 ton) of recycled paper helps to save 17 trees, over 350 gallons of oil, and a large portion of landfill space.

48. A single American consumes roughly two trees annually in paper products.

49. Of the 62 million newspapers printed daily in the United States, 44 million will be thrown away (roughly 500,000 trees).

50. If 1/10 of all discarded American newspapers were recycled annually, ~25 million trees would be saved.