- Definition: The process of collecting and processing waste materials, and reusing them
- Materials: Glass, paper, textiles, metal, plastic, and electronics
- Benefits: Reduced amount of waste, conserved natural resources, saved energy
- Origin: Plato in 400 BC
- Symbol: 3 mutually chasing arrows that form a Möbius strip
- Statistics: 1,609 lb. of trash produced per person annually in the US
- Statistics: US recycles around one-third of its waste
- Statistics: 80 billion aluminum cans used each year worldwide
- Resources: Water is the most wasted natural resource
- Weird: Liposuctioned human fat can be recycled as fuel
- Context: Recycling Is Part of the Waste Management Hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Statistics: Americans Produce More than 200 Million Tons of Waste Every Year
- Ignorance: Our Indifference to Recycling Is Ruining around 100 Acres of Rainforests Each Minute
- Packaging: Packaging Accounts for 10% of Our Purchases
- Food: We Throw Away a Stunning Amount of Food Every Single Year
- Aluminum: Aluminum Cans Can Be Recycled and Used Again in Just 2 Months
- Glass: A Glass Container Can Go from a Recycling Bin to a Store Shelf in as Little as 30 Days
- Paper: Recycled Paper Production Is Much More Environment-Friendly than Raw Material Production
- Plastic: 2.5 Million Plastic Bottles Are Used Every 30 Minutes in the US
- Water: Water is One of the Most Important Materials to Recycle
- Disposable Diapers Are One of the Most Thrown Away Products in the US
- Your Sunday Paper Could Be Responsible for the Death of Half a Million Trees
- A Single Supermarket Can Use a Tree’s Worth of Grocery Bags in an Hour
- Each One Ton of Recycled Paper Saves 17 Trees
- Paper Recycling Has Improved Significantly over the Last Decade
- Discarded Aluminum Cans can Be Around for another 700 Years
- Plastic Products Dumped into the Ocean Have a Devastating Effect on Sea Life
- Exchanging Your Styrofoam Cup for a Re-Usable Cup Could Make a Huge Difference
- Americans Produce 40% More Waste than Europeans
- Holy Moly, Recycling can be an Art Form
Recycling Facts Infographics
Recycling Is Part of the Waste Management Hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycling facts show that recycling is a part of the waste management hierarchy that aims to determine the preference of actions to reduce and manage the waste we produce. It is typically presented in the form of a pyramid, with the most favorable options for managing waste at the top, and the least favorable options on the bottom.
The most favorable option is waste prevention, followed by minimization, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and disposal. Disposal is the least favorable option. Recycling is thus the fourth most favorable action in waste management and should be preceded by preventing waste, minimizing waste and reusing waste.
Americans Produce More than 200 Million Tons of Waste Every Year
Recycling facts show that Americans produce a huge amount of waste every year – more than 200 million tons (200,000,000,000 kg!). This is enough to fill a large Major League baseball stadium from top to bottom, twice over every single day!
This makes the United States one of the biggest producers of waste in the world. And, if this alone wasn’t bad enough, the US only recycles about 80 million tons out of over 200 million tons produced each year; the rest is a useless leftover that often harms our planet and the quality of our lives.
Our Indifference to Recycling Is Ruining around 100 Acres of Rainforests Each Minute
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that about 75% of American waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it. This inefficiency, and similar recycling inefficiencies around the world, severely impact on the environment. Due to the sad fact that humankind doesn’t recycle as much as we should, we are losing one of the most valuable natural resources – rainforests. The deforestation of rain forests happens at the alarming rate of about 100 acres per minute. This means we lose almost 150,000 acres per day, and more than 50 million acres per year!
Packaging Accounts for 10% of Our Purchases
Bringing home a product and realizing that you have to find your way through layers and layers of packaging before you can actually get to what you bought is not only annoying, but also extremely bad for the environment. Recent studies show that products we purchase in supermarkets nowadays consist of around 10% of packaging on average; unfortunately, most of it is unnecessary. The good news is that most of the packaging is recyclable, but the bad news is that most of the packaging is discarded and never finds its way to a recycling plant.
We Throw Away a Stunning Amount of Food Every Single Year
Recycling facts show that we generate about 15-20 million tons of food waste each year, which means that the average American produces more than 100 lb. of food waste each year. Only a fraction of this is composted and reused, and over 90% of it is incinerated or landfilled, occupying nearly 7 million cubic yards of landfilled municipal solid waste (MSW).
If we composted all our food waste, we could reduce greenhouse gases by the same amount as we would if we took 2-2.5 million cars off the road.
Aluminum Cans Can Be Recycled and Used Again in Just 2 Months
Recycling facts reveal that a vast number of the more than 80 billion aluminum cans used each year could be easily recycled. Recycled cans can be back on the shelves at our grocery stores in only two months. Despite the great recycling potential of aluminum cans (and other aluminum products, too), we still don’t recycle nearly enough. In 1998, less than two-thirds of aluminum cans were recycled, but even this saved 95% of the energy needed to make aluminum out of bauxite ore. This would be enough to provide the energy of for a small country of 2-3 million inhabitants for 10 years!
The simple truth is that aluminum can be recycled over and over again, thus having great energy-saving potential. By recycling just one aluminum can, we save enough energy to power a television for a few hours, listen to a full album of music on an iPod, or light a room for a few hours.
A Glass Container Can Go from a Recycling Bin to a Store Shelf in as Little as 30 Days
Statistics show that each year, Americans throw away approximately 28 billion bottles or jars – if we were to fill tractor trailers with these containers and place them in a line, they would stretch from the East coast to the West coast and back!
Considering the fact that glass bottles and jars can be easily recycled and put back into use in only 30 days, this is a terrible waste of resources. Furthermore, glass bottles and jars that don’t get recycled often end up thrown away in a landfill somewhere, where they take more than 4000 years to decompose. Remember: recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for approximately 4 hours!
Recycled Paper Production Is Much More Environment-Friendly than Raw Material Production
Paper can be produced in one of two main ways: by recycling used paper or by making new paper from trees and other raw materials. Energy production and air pollution both decrease by about 70% when using the first, more environmentally-friendly option.
Recycling facts show daunting statistics that reveal most people in the USA use up at least seven trees worth of wood each year by using paper, wooden products and other materials that require wood. This adds up to over 2,000,000,000 trees in a single year for the total population of the USA.
2.5 Million Plastic Bottles Are Used Every 30 Minutes in the US
American are also very negligent of the environment when it comes to using plastic materials – every 30 minutes, Americans use over 2.5 million plastic bottles. It is estimated that most of these are simply thrown away instead of being recycled – Americans recycled only 1 in 4 plastic bottles in the 1990s.
Plastic bottles are also believed to represent close to half of all recyclable waste that gets dumped; a terrible waste indeed! Not only because the average plastic bottle thrown into a landfill needs around 700 years to decompose, but also because recycling one ton of plastic can save 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of gasoline.
Water is One of the Most Important Materials to Recycle
Water is without a doubt the most precious material on our planet – without it, life on Earth wouldn’t have evolved in the first place. And lack of water might very well be the thing that ends the human race in the end if we continue living in such a careless manner…
Today, there are many countries where clean drinking water is not widely available, but most of the world still uses water carelessly. Do you brush your teeth sometimes by leaving the faucet running? This wastes about 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Do you have a leaky faucet that you can’t find enough time to repair? One drop per second wastes around 540 gallons of water per year. How many dishwashers do you load each day? One wash cycle uses about 11 gallons of water. How often do you take a bath? A full bath needs around 70 gallons of water, while a 5-minute shower needs only 10-25 gallons…
Disposable Diapers Are One of the Most Thrown Away Products in the US
Along with diapers, the most commonly thrown away products in America include pens, razor blades, tires and aluminum. All these products and materials found in them can, of course, be recycled. The problem is just that we don’t feel like doing it…
Disposable diapers have become real kings of landfills recently – did you know that the average baby goes through 8,000 of them? Multiplying this number by the number of babies in the US can make you dizzy!
Your Sunday Paper Could Be Responsible for the Death of Half a Million Trees
Sunday newspapers, enjoyed by many people over the course of a relaxing weekend, are responsible for the cutting down of approximately half a million trees each week! That means that about 25 million trees die annually so that we can read our Sunday newspaper. But there is a solution – and it is not only reading the news online or sharing the paper with your neighbors. Recycling all the newspapers we read could save over millions of trees each year. If we add in the countless other paper publications or plain paper we use every day, this number would be several times higher…
A Single Supermarket can Use a Tree’s Worth of Grocery Bags in an Hour
A simple tree plant, on average, needs at least 15 to 20 years to grow into a tree, but only a few minutes to be cut down for the purpose of being made into some other material that makes our everyday lives easier. Now, consider the fact that one average tree might suffice for the production of about 700 paper grocery bags – not so bad, huh? Well, it mightn’t seem that bad, until we realize that this number of paper bags will be used in less than an hour in an average supermarket. How many supermarkets are there using grocery bags in the world today?
And it is not only paper grocery bags – trees are also cut down in their thousands (27,000 every single day to be exact) to make toilet paper.
Each One Ton of Recycled Paper Saves 17 Trees
Imagine recycling six pounds of paper each day in your family, your neighborhood or your office. It may not seem much at a first glance, but according to the Public Recycling Officials of Pennsylvania, one year of doing that (recycling one ton of paper in total) would save 17 trees, 275 pounds of sulfur, 350 pounds of limestone, 60,000 gallons of water, 225 kwh (kilowatt hours) of energy and more than 3 cubic yards of landfill space. If only we could all commit to doing this… just think what a difference it could make.
Paper Recycling Has Improved Significantly over the Last Decade
Our environmental awareness, although still not quite where it should be, has increased greatly over the past few decades. For example, paper recycling in the USA increased by nearly 90% from 1990 to 2010, and paper – and paperboard-caused municipal solid waste – decreased by more than 20% from 2000 to 2012.
We have come a long way since 1690, when the Rittenhouse family established the first paper mill that used recycled linen, and since 1896, when the Benedetto family established the first major recycling center in New York. 1993 was the first year when more paper was recycled than buried in landfills, and, in the current decade, big plans were made for paper recycling – the US paper industry set a goal to recycle 55% of all paper used by 2012.
Discarded Aluminum Cans can Be Around for another 700 Years
Recycling facts clearly show that most people don’t really care about the environment. Many people discard aluminum cans instead of recycling them, which means that they could lie around for 700 years. But this is somehow expected in modern, short-term-comfort oriented society. What is not expected, however, is people missing a reasonable opportunity to earn some money – by the Container Recycling Institute’s (CRI) estimations, the 36 billion aluminum cans that are landfilled in a single year have a value of more than $600 million. Furthermore, in the last two decades, we have scrapped aluminum cans that are worth over $12 billion now. The saddest part of this is that we might be forced to browse our landfills one day when we have exhausted our natural resources.
Plastic Products Dumped into the Ocean Have a Devastating Effect on Sea Life
An incredible 14 billion pounds of waste (mostly plastic) are dumped into oceans each year, but most of us are not aware how horribly they can affect the seas and the life in them. Shocking recycling facts statistics show that the plastic bags alone that are thrown into oceans kill over one million sea creatures. This means that we kill more than 100 animals every hour – solely by throwing our garbage in the sea! Plastic bags soil animal-rich water ecosystems and many of them also kill animals directly due to animals mistaking them for food and swallowing them.
Exchanging Your Styrofoam Cup for a Re-Usable Cup Could Make a Huge Difference
Americans alone use and throw away over 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups (that’s 25,000,000,000!) each year. The biggest problem is that all these Styrofoam cups will still be around when our 20-times-great-grandchildren walk the Earth, since they are not bio-degradable and do not decompose easily (they take 500 years to decompose on average). Luckily, there are various alternatives for drinking coffee out there – we just have to make a decision to change for the better. Using a re-usable, everyday mug is much more environmentally responsible.
Americans Produce 40% More Waste than Europeans
Americans are one of the biggest producers of waste in the world, so it is not surprising that they beat Europeans by almost 40% on average. The average American produced 1800 lb. (800 kg) of waste in 2005, while the average European produced “only” about 1300 lb. (585 kg).
Maybe all of the USA could follow New York’s example, where, as of 2015, people have to recycle their old electronics or get a $100 fine. The CIA also sets a good example, using their own old classified documents to heat their water!
Holy Moly, Recycling can be an Art Form
Recycling facts show that recycling can also be considered as a form of art. Don’t believe it? Just imagine recycling being a kind of alchemy, which, instead of turning base metals into gold, turns garbage into gold (or into useful materials at least). A good example is a 2.5 meter tall model of Optimus Prime made out of recycled material that sold for $7,800. Not a bad price for a piece of garbage, huh?
And if garbage Optimus Prime doesn’t really get you excited, you can also search online for a cassette tape portrait of Michael Jackson, a robot constructed from old hard disks and thousands of other popular recycled masterpieces…
Recycling Facts — Facts about Recycling Summary
Recycling is the process of collecting and processing waste materials and reusing them for various purposes. We produce more garbage in all forms nowadays than ever before, but the good news is that materials that are responsible for most of our garbage production – plastic, paper, glass, aluminum, food and others – can be easily recycled with the help of modern technology. Americans are one of the biggest waste producers in the world, and produce over 200 million tons of every year. Environmental awareness has greatly increased over the last decades, giving hope for a better future. And the problem is not only in our poisoning of our planet with waste in landfills and oceans – it is also the energetic inefficiency of modern societies that could be easily and quickly improved through careful recycling.