Keep America Beautiful

RECYCLING FACTS & STATS

Recycling in General

Overall, Americans recovered 34% of waste generated in 2009. That means we threw away 161 million tons of material, which amounts to about three pounds of garbage per person per day. 

There were about 9,000 curbside recycling programs in the United States in 2009.  

In 2009, Americans recycled 82 million tons of materials. The resulting CO2 emission reduction is equivalent to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road. 
 
The recyclable materials in the U.S. waste stream would generate over $7 billion if they were recycled. That’s equivalent to Donald Trump’s net worth. 

The recycling industry employed over 1.1 million workers and generated over $236 billion in annual revenue in 2001. Increasing recycling rates and new collection programs show that the industry is growing.
 


Aluminum Recycling

In 2009, 3.4 million tons of aluminum were generated in the U.S. and .69 million tons were recovered. 

In the United States, over 100,000 aluminum cans are recycled each minute. That amounts to 53 billion cans recycled in 2010. However, over $1.1 billion in aluminum cans were wasted in 2010.

The aluminum cans recycled in 2010, stacked one on top of the other, would be 1,454 times taller than the Empire State Building.

If you laid all the aluminum cans recycled in 2010 end to end, they could circle the earth 169 times!

The U.S. recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans reached 58.1% in 2010- a rate that is more than double that of any other beverage container.

Recycled Content

Aluminum cans have 68% recycled content.

Used aluminum cans are recycled and back on the shelf as new cans in as few as 60 days.

Energy

Twenty recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your television for three hours.

The amount of energy saved just from recycling cans in 2010 is equal to the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of crude oil, or nearly two days of all U.S. oil imports.

Resources

The pollutants created in producing one ton of aluminum include 3,290 pounds of red mud, 2,900 pounds of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), 81 pounds of air pollutants and 789 pounds of solid wastes.

Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.


Electronics Recycling

In 2009, 25% of all electronics at the end of their useful “lives” were collected for recycling.

Approximately 38% (by weight) of all computers ready for “end-of-life management” in 2009 were collected for recycling.

Only 17% (by weight) of all televisions at their “end-of-life” were recovered for recycling in 2009.

Only 8% (by weight) of all mobile phones no longer in use in 2009 were collected for recycling.

The average consumer replaces their mobile phone every 20.5 months.

Glass Recycling

In 2009, 12 million tons of glass was generated in the United States, and 3 million tons were recovered.

In 2009, Americans threw away almost 9 million tons of glass. That amount could fill enough tractor trailers to stretch from New York to Los Angeles and back!

Resources

Over a ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled, including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar.

That means that Americans wasted around 11 million pounds of sand with the glass bottles discarded in 2009. That amount could fill every room in the White House with sand 12 feet deep!

Recycled Content

Glass container manufacturers use up to 70% recycled glass, or “cullet.”

A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days.

Energy

Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes, or a television for 20 minutes.

Use of cullet in place of raw material saves energy because it melts at a lower temperature. That means it also emits less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, two greenhouse gasses.


Paper Recycling

In 2010, Americans recovered 63.5% of U.S. paper— an 89% increase in recovery since 1990. However, we threw away $2.8 billion worth of paper!

In 2010, Americans trashed enough paper to cover 26,700 football fields or 17,800 soccer fields in paper three feet deep.

Access

87% (268 million) of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs.

Recycled Content

31% of the paper and paperboard recovered in the U.S. in 2010 went to produce containerboard (i.e. corrugated boxes) and 12% went to produce boxboard (i.e. cereal boxes). 

As of 2010, 80 percent of U.S. paper mills (115 mills) relied on recycled paper. In fact, it supplied 37 percent of their material.

Economics

Nearly 40% of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S. in 2010 was exported to China and other nations.

Energy

Producing recycled paper takes 40% less energy than producing paper from virgin wood pulp.

Resources

It takes 24 trees to make one ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper.

Using recycled scrap paper instead of virgin material saves 7,000 gallons of water per ton of paper produced.

Recycled paper production creates 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution than virgin paper production.


Plastics Recycling

In 2009, almost 30 million tons of plastics were generated in the United States, and only around 2 million tons were recovered.

In 2009, 2.12 million tons of plastics (of all kinds) were recycled in the United States. However, that was only 7.1% of all plastics generated in 2009.

In 2009, the plastic bottle recycling rate reached a record high of 2.5 billion pounds, or 28% of all plastic bottles consumed in the United States.

Economics

In 2009, $485 million worth of plastic was wasted in the United States. That’s enough for 1,000 households to live on the U.S. median income for nearly a decade.

Accessibility

94% of Americans have access to plastic bottle recycling and 40% of the population can also recycle other types of plastic containers, like dairy tubs and lids.

Within the 100 largest cities via a 2,500-community person survey, the percentage of the population with access to recycle plastic containers in addition to bottles has nearly doubled since 2008.

Recycled content

If all 8 billion pounds of plastic bottles produced in the U.S. in 2009 had been recycled, the material could have produced 22 million extra large t-shirts.

The amount of plastic bottles recycled in 2009, provided enough raw material for about 7 million shirts to be made.

44 percent increase in 2009 of RPET (Recycled PET) used in food and beverage bottles.

Energy

Every pound of recycled PET used in place of virgin material reduces energy use in plastic production by 84% and greenhouse gas emissions by 71%

Plastic bags and films Recycling

In 2009, over 855 million pounds of plastic bags and wraps were recycled in the U.S. – up 31% percent from 2005.

Americans recycled 200 million more pounds of plastic bags and film in 2009 than we recycled in 2005.

Economics

Only 9 percent of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps were recycled in 2009. That means 3,470 tons – or $694,000 worth—were discarded!

Over half of all recovered film was exported in 2009, compared to about 1/4 in 2005.


Steel Recycling

With a 66.2% recycling rate, steel containers are one of the most recycled materials in the United States. Every minute, approximately 20,000 steel cans are recycled in the United States

In 2009, 16 million tons of steel were generated in the U.S., and 5 million tons were recovered.

Each year, more steel is recycled than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined.

In the past 50 years, more than 50 percent of the steel produced in this country has been recycled through the steelmaking process.

Economics

In 2009, Americans threw away 10.39 million tons of steel. That amounts to more than $3 billion in wasted material, or enough to buy lunch for everyone in the United States!

Recycled content

Steel producers in the United States use more than 70% recycled steel.

Energy

Recycling steel and tin cans saves between 60 and 74 percent of the energy used to produce them from raw materials.

Resources

Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.

 


Trash

In 2009, we filled United States landfills with trash equivalent to the weight of 88 million cars.

In 2009, Americans produced enough trash to circle the earth 24 times.

 

To find out more about recycling, please contact:

Brenda Pulley

Senior Vice President, Recycling
202.688.0603
bpulley@kab.org