Recycling Facts and Figures

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Let’s have a look on some of the recycling facts and figures in order to better understand how recycling is contributing to reducing consumption and enhancing preservation of natural resources.

General Recycling And Waste Management Facts

  • According to EPA, in 2014 alone, about 258 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) were generated in the United States. Around 34.6 percent of that amount which is over 89 million tons were recycled and composted. Around 136 million tons (52.6 percent) and 33 million tons of the remaining amount were sent to the landfill and incinerated, respectively. In 2014, 66.4 million tons of MSW were recycled, a total just over one-quarter of total MSW.
  • In 2010, total MSW in the U.S. amounted to 251.1 million tons.

    Plastic Recycling Facts

    • In 2014, plastics comprised about 13 percent of total MSW. The total plastic waste was 33.25 million tons of which only 3.17 million tons were recycled. So, the plastic recycling rate in 2014 was only 9.5 percent. 75.5 percent of total Plastic MSW was sent to landfills.
    • Around 66 percent of energy can be saved by producing plastic products from recycled plastics instead of virgin materials. 
    • 1000 to 2000 gallons of gasoline can be saved recycling just one ton of plastic.
    • Every hour, Americans use approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles. And most of these are thrown away.
    • Annually, approximately 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups are thrown away in America. Click here to read more plastic recycling facts.

    Electronic Waste Recycling Facts

    • In 2014, around 41.7 percent (1.4 million tons) of total electronic waste was recycled. In 2013, it used to be 37.8 percent (1.3 million tons). Back in 2010, the e-waste recycling rate was just 10 percent.
    • Every year, 20-50 million metric tons of electronic waste are disposed around the world.
    • Electronic waste represents 2 percent of waste stream discarded in American landfills, but it equals around 70 percent of toxic waste.  
    • It takes 1.5 tons of water, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 539 pounds of fossil fuel to produce just one computer. Click here to read more e-Waste recycling facts.

      Textile Recycling Facts

      • In 2014, 16.22 million tons of textile wastes were generated in the US but only 2.62 million tons (16.2 percent) was recycled.
      • The average lifetime of a cloth is approximately 3 years. And nearly 100 percent of textiles and clothing are recyclable.
      • The U.S. textile recycling industry removes approximately 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textiles each year from the waste stream and the industry creates more than 17,000 jobs.
      • Consumers are considered are considered the main offenders for throwing away their used clothing as only 15 percent of post-consumer clothing is recycled where more than 75 percent of clothing is recycled by textile and clothing manufacturers. Read more textile recycling facts and figures.

        Paper Recycling Facts

        • In 2014, Paper and paperboard constituted more than 26 percent of total MSW, while wood constituted another 6 percent.
        • Out of 68.61 million tons of paper and paperboard waste generated in 2014, around 44 million or two-thirds was recycled. Only 28.4 percent of paper and paperboard waste was landfilled in 2014. 
        • Air pollution from paper production can be lessened by 73 percent if papers are produced from recycled papers instead of virgin materials.
        • Every year, roughly 1 billion trees worth of paper are discarded in the U.S.
        • By weight, paper accounts for more than 50 percent of all recyclable waste collected in the U.S.
        • In 2012, approximately 44 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in the U.S. and 65 percent of that was recycled. Read more paper recycling facts.

        Glass Recycling Facts

        • In 2014, glass accounted for over 4 percent of total waste generated in the U.S. Almost 12 million tons of glass waste were generated in 2014 and around one-quarter was recycled.
        • 100 percent of all types of glasses are recyclable and can be recycled without losing purity or quality.
        • More than a ton of natural resources can be saved by recycling a ton of glass.
        • Recycling a thousand tons of glass can create jobs for eight individuals.
        • Glass that is thrown away in landfills never decomposes. Click here to read more glass recycling facts.

          Metal Recycling Facts

          • In 2014, metal constituted over 9 percent of MSW generated in the US. Just under 24 million tons of metal waste was generated and almost 8 million tons (34 percent) were recycled in that year.
          • Recycling just one aluminum can save sufficient energy to run a television set for around 3 hours or one 100-watt bulb burning for 4 hours.
          • 20 recycled aluminum cans can be produced with the energy required to produce just one aluminum can using virgin ore.
          • According to the Aluminum Association, 64.3 percent of aluminum beverage containers were recycled in the U.S. in 2015, or 56.8 billion containers. 
          • Using recycled copper in copper processing saves 85 percent to 90 percent energy requirements than using new copper from virgin ore.

          Auto Recycling Facts

          • Each year, Automotive Recycling Industry in North American saves roughly 85 million barrels of oil from being used in production of new or replacement automobile parts.
          • Each year, worldwide Auto Recycling Industry recycles more than 25 million tons of waste materials which are collected from out of order cars.
          • According to reports, automobiles are the most recycled consumer products.
          • Currently 80 percent of discarded cars are recycled and the remaining 20 percent can’t be recycled. Click here to read more auto recycling facts.

            Other Recycling Facts

            A gallon of paint can contaminate up to 2,500,000 gallons of drinking water if it is not disposed of appropriately.

            As per the Deconstruction Institute, every year, the U.S. building deconstruction and demolition industry produces around 125 million tons of debris that go to landfills and only 2 percent of total waste building materials is recycled. Who recycles more, young or old people?