November 19, 2017

23 Recycling Statistics That Will Shock You

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Every year, more than 250 million tons of trash is discarded. Americans don't quite recycle as much as we could, either. There is still about a 15% deficit.

Read on to learn more shocking statistics about recycling in America.

© Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

  1. How much waste is recyclable?
    50% of the 254 million tons of trash Americans throw away is recyclable.

  2. How much actually gets recycled?
    Unfortunately, just about 34% of the 254 million tons of trash actually gets recycled. California, Maine, and Washington have the highest recycling rates. Mississippi has the lowest rate of recycling.

  3. How much would it cost to recycle?
    Surprisingly enough, it is more expensive to recycle than to fill a landfill. It costs around $28 per ton to throw trash in the landfill. The cost to recycle is around $147 a ton.

  4. What are some things that can be recycled?
    The most common recyclable items are paper, aluminum, glass, and cardboard. Think of things like newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and glass jars are also very common.

    However, did you know that you can’t recycle pizza boxes, paper towels, and plates? Nothing with food debris should be recycled. Another big one is plastic grocery bags. While they are plastic, they pose a danger to the machinery.


  1. How much trash is produced each year?
    The U.S. produces around 258 million tons of trash each year.

  2. How much trash does the average person create per day?
    The average person tosses 4.4 pounds of garbage per day. That’s 1,606 pounds per year for one person!

Plastic Bottles

  1. How many plastic bottles are bought per minute?
    Convenience has trumped everything, even caring for the environment. Every one minute, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased around the globe. Only half of those bottles will get recycled, though.

  2. How many plastic bottles do Americans throw away each year?
    As much as Americans love their soda, they also love their bottled water. We throw away as many as 35 billion plastic water bottles each year.

    Did you know plastic takes almost 1,000 years to degrade when thrown in a landfill?

  3. How many plastic bottles are recycled each year?
    Just around 25% of the plastic bottles used per year are recycled. This means we waste 1 billion gallons of oil per year. We also use up 44 million cubic yards of space in the landfill. We could save each of these just by increasing our recycling efforts.

  4. Why is it important to recycle plastic bottles?
    Aside from saving landfill space, recycling plastic bottles helps the air and water. Because of the limited landfill space, plastic bottles are often destroyed. Depending on the method used, they could releases toxic chemicals into the air and water.


  1. How many tons of plastic are recycled each year?
    We discard 33 million tons of plastic every year. However, only 3 million tons, or 9%, are recycled. Did you know you could recycle peanut butter jars, salad dressing bottles, and laundry detergent bottles? However, don’t recycle plastic wrap, Styrofoam, and grocery bags.

  2. How many times could you circle the Earth with the amount of plastic thrown away?
    Line up the plastic thrown away each year and you could take a trip around the Earth 4 times!

  3. How much plastic is produced in the world each year?
    The world consistently produces around 300 million tons of plastic each year.

  4. How much energy is saved by recycling plastic?
    Just by recycling one ton of plastic, you can save 5,774 Kwh of energy. That means we save more than 190 billion Kwh of energy with the plastic we currently recycle.

  5. How many plastic bags are used each year?
    Worldwide, we use more than one trillion plastic bags each year. Even though we can’t recycle them at home, your local grocery store is a good resource. They usually have collection bins. They will then get the bags to the appropriate facility for proper disposal.

Cardboard & Paper

  1. How much paper and cardboard are thrown away each year?
    Almost 69 million tons of paper and cardboard are discarded each year. However, 64% of it is recycled. This category comes second only to metals in terms of the amount recycled.

  2. How many cardboard boxes are sold each year?
    The U.S. produces 100 billion boxes every year. This commonly used supply for shipping is the largest product taking up the landfills.


  1. How much aluminum is thrown away each year?
    Americans just may have a bad soda habit. We throw away 2.7 million tons of aluminum yearly. More shocking, though, is that we only recycle half of it. Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable, which means we are wasting a lot of energy each year.

The Environment

  1. How much landfill space is saved by recycling one ton of paper?
    Recycling one ton, or 2,000 pounds of paper, could save landfill space measuring 3.3 cubic yards. That’s 33 cubic yards for every 20,000 pounds of paper recycled.

  2. How many trees would be saved by recycling?
    Recycling 2,000 pounds of paper could also save 17 trees. Every 10 tons of paper recycled can save 170 trees.

  3. How effective would recycling be if recycling efforts reached 75%?
    If we could amp up our recycling efforts by 2030, we could create almost 1.5 million new jobs.

Recycling Industry

  1. How large is the recycling industry?
    The recycling industry is a $106 billion industry, employing 149,000 people per year.

  2. How much does the U.S. recycle on average?
    In just one year, the U.S. can recycle products worth as much as $80 billion.

Bottom Line

Everyone should try to do their part and recycle. It helps save the environment as well as our economy. Cutting down on the use of plastic bags and bottles is one area where we could have a major impact.

Sources and References:

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