According to an EPA estimate in 2012, Americans create roughly 251 million tons of garbage each year
Of that waste, almost 87 million tons were recycled or composted. While this works out to a recycle rate of 34.5% it still falls behind many of our global neighbors and continues to result in millions of tons of waste filling dumps and landfills each year. There are many small changes each of us can make that will have huge positive impacts on preventing harmful waste from damaging our environment.
As a result of increasing wealth and populations we are not only buying more items but there are increasingly more people creating waste on the planet. Factor in changing lifestyles where more and more of us are eating fast food, which generates a large amount of non-biodegradable waste, and we start to see the importance of recycling.
Recycling is an excellent way of both protecting our environment and conserving energy by reducing the amount of space needed for landfills and reducing the need for harvesting new natural resources
Did you know:
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
- In 2009, Americans produced enough trash to circle the Earth 24 times.
- Over 75% of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.
- 21.5 million tons of food waste is created each year. If that food were composted, it could reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on your iPod. Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for two whole weeks.
- Recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy used to make aluminum cans from new material.
- Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic bottles every hour.
- Over 87% of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs.
- In 2009, Americans threw away almost 9 million tons of glass. That much glass could fill enough tractor trailers to stretch from NYC to LA (and back!).
- In 2010, paper recycling had increased over 89% since 1990.
- If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we could save about 25 million trees each year.
Aluminum Recycling Facts
- A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can, in as little as 60 days.
- Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled item in the U.S. and more aluminum goes into beverage cans than any other product.
- An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now.
- There is no limit to the number of times an aluminum can may be recycled.
Glass Recycling Facts
- The amount of glass bottles and jars thrown out every month could fill up a skyscraper…and they are all recyclable.
- A 100-watt light bulb could be run for 4 hours on the amount of energy saved from recycling one glass bottle and a compact fluorescent bulb could run for 20 hours.
- A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose.
- Substituting half recycled glass for new raw materials in glass production cuts production waste by more than 80%.
Paper Recycling Facts
- Approximately 500,000 trees are used to produce each week’s Sunday newspapers
- Americans throw away approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper every year
- Most of the household paper thrown away each year comes from packaging and junk mail, averaging 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year.
- 17 trees can be saved for each ton of recycled paper. Those 17 trees can then absorb about 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Compare that to the 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide that would be created by burning that ton of paper and the benefits of recycling become clear.
Plastic Recycling Facts
- Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour. Most of these bottles are simply thrown away.
- Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
- 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups are thrown away by Americans every year.
- Plastic garbage thrown into the ocean, including plastic bags, kills as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.