Nature has its own intrinsic system of keeping the earth clean, yet our planet is getting dirtier day by day. This is because the amount of waste we generate in our daily activities far exceeds nature’s capacity to clean it.
It is in our own interests to create ways to keep the environment as clean as possible. There is a growing realization that our lifestyle of “use and throw” has to be modified, and the three words “reduce, reuse, and recycle” have to become a part of our daily routine.
However, different types of materials have different decomposition durations, and some may not degenerate. For example, aluminum, glass bottles, and plastic never deteriorate independently. Therefore, recycling needs to happen so that these items are recycled effectively and brought into use again.
Facts about the Waste Generated in the US
Facts on Waste Generated
- On average, a person generates about 4.4 pounds of solid waste daily. Americans alone throw away 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups yearly.
- In 2014, the USA generated 258 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). And in 2018, the total MSW was 4.9 pounds per person or 292.4 million tons. Among this, only 69 million tons were recycled, while 25 million tons were composted. However, 94 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, which makes it only 32.1% of the recycling and composting rate.
- It is reported that Americans throw away enough trash to circle the earth about 24 times.
- Additional 5 million tons of waste are generated during the holidays by Americans.
- The landfills of America have 11 million tons, 70 pounds per person, of textile waste.
Cardboard Waste Facts
- Around 100 billion cardboard boxes are manufactured yearly in the United States.
- More than 90% of products shipped in the USA are packed in corrugated boxes, making cardboard box waste exceed 400 billion square feet.
Aluminum Waste Facts
- An estimated 75% of the aluminum produced is still in use.
- Only 63.6% of aluminum cans are recycled.
- Americans throw away aluminum every three months to rebuild commercial air fleet. But it takes up to 500 years for it to degrade. This means that if it is thrown away in a landfill, it will sit there for a long time.
Glass Waste Facts
- Glass waste takes more than 4,000 years, even longer in landfills, to decompose. And every year, more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars are dumped in landfills.
Plastic Waste Facts
- Yearly, over 14 million Polystyrene (plastic foam) waste is generated over the world.
- It takes about 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, and approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles get thrown away in America every hour. This is enough plastic waste to circle the earth four times.
E waste Facts
- 2% of the total waste stream in the United States consists of electronic waste. An American, on average, generates about 20 kg of e-waste every year.
- New York City alone produces 14 million tons of e-waste yearly.
- According to United Nations’ Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report, 53.6 million tons of e-waste were generated in 2019. This was recorded to be about 21% more than five years ago.
- Only 12.5% of the e-waste generated is recycled.
- In 2017, approximately 2.8 million tons of consumer e-waste generated were DVD players, phones, computers, video cameras, televisions, stereo systems, and VCRs.
Paper Waste Facts
- 70% of the total office waste is paper. Most office workers use around 10,000 sheets of paper every year. This is something we never think much about.
- Businesses in America are growing every year. Although this is great for the American economy, it’s not that good for the environment. This is because American businesses produce around 21 million tons of paper waste.
- Americans generally use about 85 million tons of paper every year, that is 680 pounds per person.
- One billion trees’ worth of paper is thrown away annually. About 500,000 trees are equivalent to 90% of recyclable newspaper waste generated every Sunday in the U.S.
Food Waste Facts
- One-third of the waste stream by weight comprises organic materials like food, grass and leaves. Food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Food waste is known to be the third most significant reason behind excessive production of carbon dioxide.
- The United States alone produces 34 million tons of food waste annually and 3,000 pounds every second. It means that nearly half of the food goes to waste!
- Thirty-four million tons of food waste is generated by America annually, and 12% of the country’s municipal solid waste consists of food scraps.
Facts about the Waste Recycled in the US
Facts on Waste Recycled
- Recycling is one way we can save the environment from further being polluted. However, the public is still confused about the topic. This is why from the 75% of the generated waste, Americans only recycle about 30% of it even though 94% of the population has access to recycling programs!
- Currently, the US recycling levels are only approximately 21.4%. If this level reaches about 75%, the country can generate 1.5 million new jobs and remove the equivalent of 55 million cars from the road.
- In the USA, recycling is an almost $200 billion industry, generating 7 to 10 more jobs from the landfill and waste industry to the energy plants.
- Recycling conserves 95% of freshwater during mining and manufacturing.
- Some manufacturers want to reuse the materials. However, it is impossible for many due to the lack of people recycling products.
Cardboard Recycling Facts
- Recycling cardboard only takes 75% of the energy required to produce a new one. Moreover, one ton of recycled cardboard saves about nine cubic yards of landfill space.
- About 80% of grocers and retailers now recycle cardboard.
- 70% of the corrugated cardboard is recovered from recycling.
Aluminum Recycling Facts
- More than 25,000 cans can be recycled in an average person’s lifespan.
- A recycled aluminum can will be back on the grocery shelf within 60 days of the recycling process. It can be recycled forever without losing its quality, using only 5% of the total energy used to produce a new can.
- Recycling an aluminum can saves energy that can be further used to power a television for about three hours! Approximately 20 cans can be made from recycled material, and it takes about the same energy to make a new one.
- Recycled aluminum decreases air pollution and water by 95% compared to virgin materials.
Glass Recycling Facts
- Glass is 100% recyclable. This means it can be recycled again and again without losing its purity and quality.
- Glass is manufactured using readily available domestic materials, such as soda ash, sand, limestone, and cullet (furnace-ready recycled glass).
- Glass recycling uses sand in greater volumes than cullet. These materials are mixed, heated to a temperature of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and then molded into the desired shape.
- Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
- Recycled glass saves energy, decreases the consumption of raw materials, and reduces emissions. It also extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces.
- Glass manufacturers always require high-quality recycled container glass to meet the market demands for new glass containers.
- The more the use of recycled glass, the lesser will be the energy used in the furnace, making glass recycling a profitable process in the long run. It lowers the manufacturing costs and benefits the environment as well.
- Glass can be recycled as much as you want without losing its original quality.
- When you recycle one glass bottle, you are saving energy to light a 100-watt lightbulb for about four hours!
Plastic Recycling Facts
- Despite all the awareness spreading in the world to recycle plastic, only 23% of thrown-away plastic bottles are recycled every year.
- It takes 88% less energy to recycle plastic than to make plastic products from raw materials.
- One ton of recycled plastic saves 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of gasoline and saves energy used by two people in a household for one year.
E-waste Recycling Facts
- The world is going through an e-waste crisis where 48.6 million tons were generated in 2019. Among these, only 17.4% of the discarded electronic devices were properly recycled.
- If a million laptops were recycled every year, we could save energy equivalent to the electricity consumed by more than 3,500 homes yearly!
Paper Recycling Facts
- One ton of recycled paper saves 17 mature trees and 7,000 gallons of water.
- A 3 feet high stack of recycled newspaper saves one tree.
Food Waste Recycling Facts
- Composting is the perfect way to deal with food waste and turn them into healthy organic soil.
- The United States has about 4,914 industrial composting facilities across the country and yet about 95% of food waste ends up in landfills.
Compactor Management Company (former Northern California Compactors, Inc.) offers installation and support services for waste recycling equipment such as waste compactors, balers, shredders & conveyor systems. Established in 1981, it offers waste management solutions across the United States.