If there’s one thing Americans enjoy more than buying stuff, it’s not recycling that stuff when we’re done with it. We’ve put together a by-the-numbers look at this country’s expanding waste line.
4.4: Percent of the world’s population living in the U.S.
18: Percent of the world’s municipal solid waste (aka trash) generated in the U.S.
7: Seconds you might want to take to reread those two stats
4.4: Pounds of trash the average American produces each day
3.7: Pounds of trash the average American produced each day in 1980
2.7: Pounds of trash the average American produced each day in 1960
2.9: Average pounds of trash generated per person per day in Europe today
2.4: Average pounds generated per person per day in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia
1.4: Average pounds generated per person per day in sub-Saharan Africa
254,000,000: Tons of trash tossed by Americans in 2013
34: Percent of that total that was successfully recycled or composted
13: Percent of that total that was combusted for energy
53: Percent of that total that ended up in landfills
3: Rank of landfills as sources of human-generated methane, a potent greenhouse gas (fossil fuels and agriculture top the list)
63: Percent of waste recycled in Austria, which has the world’s highest recycling rate
50: Celebrities who have signed on to a PR campaign in the U.S. to make recycling less “confusing”
1: Deep breath you should take before you read this little batch of gigantic numbers
186 million: Metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions eliminated by recycling/composting in 2013
39 million: Passenger vehicles that emit that same amount
1.1 quadrillion: BTUs of energy saved by recycling/composting in 2013
10 million: U.S. households that use that much energy in a year
1: Frisson of excitement we felt at getting to use the word “quadrillion”
120: Years since the first recycling center opened in the U.S., in New York City
35: Years since the first mandatory municipal recycling law was passed in the U.S., in Woodbury, N.J.
9,800: Municipal recycling plants in the U.S.
96: Standard size, in gallons, of recycling roll-out carts
3: U.S. cities in which human remains have been found in recycling carts in 2016
166: Gallons of gas that contain the energy saved by recycling 1 ton of paper
1,234: Gallons of gas that contain the energy saved by recycling 1 ton of aluminum
40,000,000,000: Number of aluminum cans tossed into U.S. landfills each year
95: Percent less energy it requires to make a can from recycled aluminum vs. virgin materials
90: Percent less greenhouse gas emissions that process entails
$11.4 billion: Value of recyclable containers and packaging thrown away in the U.S. each year
2050: Year by which it’s estimated there could be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the ocean
75: Percent of Americans who have access to curbside recycling
0: Excuses for not doing it.