Recycling Facts and Figures


Did You Know That:


  • The average American uses 650 pounds of paper each year - 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all that paper was recycled.
  • Recycling 1 ton (about 2,000 pounds) of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 miles), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for 6 months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space and 60 pounds of pollution.
  • The 17 trees saved by recycling 1 ton of paper can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air each year. However, burning that same ton of paper would create 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • If all of our newspapers were recycled, we could save about 250 million trees each year! If every American recycled just 1/10th of their newspapers, we could save about 25 million trees each year.
  • About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is only 28%.
  • Every month Americans throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper (think: Empire State Building), but all of these jars are recyclable!
  • Recycling 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours. In spite of this, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months!
  • An aluminum can may be recycled and put back on the grocery shelf as a new can in as little as 60 days, but an aluminum can that is thrown away today will still be a can 500 years from now!
going green plant in lighbulb
  • A 60-watt light bulb can be run for more than 24 hours on the amount of energy saved by recycling 1 pound of steel. In 1 year in the United States, the recycling of steel saves enough energy to heat and light 18 million homes!
  • To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down. Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees. If all our newspaper distributed was recycled, we could save approximately 250 million trees each year!
  • The average American uses 7 trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2 billion trees per year!
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.
  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Americans use 85 million tons of paper a year - about 680 pounds per person.
  • The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
  • The energy saved from recycling 1 glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours or a compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
  • A modern glass bottle would take 4,000 years or more to decompose − and even longer if it’s in the landfill.
  • Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that is made. If recycled glass is substituted for half of the raw materials, the waste is cut by more than 80%.
  • Out of every $10 spent buying things, $1 (10%) goes for packaging that is thrown away. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • On average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill and $65 to $75 to incinerate it.
  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of fresh water.
  • Motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty. Oil can be recycled, re-refined and used again, reducing our reliance on imported oil.
  • On average, each 1 of us produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste each day. This adds up to almost a ton of trash per person, per year.
  • A typical family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk and 26 gallons of bottled water each year. That’s a lot of containers -- make sure they’re recycled!
  • About 11 million tons of textiles end up in U.S. landfills each year — an average of about 70 pounds per person. These clothes, towels, bedding and other material can be donated to needy charities, converted into other uses or returned into fibers for other projects if recycled.
  • Americans generate more than 64 million gallons of leftover house-paint each year, enough to fill 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

    To determine how much paint you really need, use this calculator:

    1. Multiply the length times the height of each wall to determine total square feet to cover. Then, multiply then total square feet times the number of walls to cover.
      (Example: 8 foot high x 10 foot wide = 80 square feet. Then, 80 square feet x 10 walls = 800 feet total surface area.)
    2. Choose the coverage rate for the material:
      Stucco/Brick/Siding = One gallon should cover 100 square feet
      Rough/Textured surfaces = One gallon should cover 200 square feet
      Heavy coat for semi-smooth surfaces = One gallon should cover 300 square feet
      Smooth surfaces = One gallon should cover 400 square feet
      Very smooth surfaces = One gallon should cover 500 square feet
    3. Use this formula to determine paint needed (Total Surface Area divided by Coverage Rate equals Number of Gallons Needed).
      (Example: 800 square feet ÷ 400 square feet for a smooth surface = 2 gallons of paint.)
  • Americans generate approximately 40 million tons of food waste each year, about 95 percent of that is discarded. This costs us about $160 billion dollars.
  • Approximately 50 million tons of e-waste is generated around the world. However, about 70 percent of the materials inside those electronics can be collected through recycling and repurposed into other goods or raw materials.
  • To manufacture, distribute and retail one computer and monitor, it takes approximately 500 pounds of fuel, nearly 50 pounds of chemicals and more than one ton of water.
  • For every one million cell phones recycled, we recover more than 35,000 pounds of copper, 700 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.
  • The average construction of a 2,000-square-foot home generates about 2 tons of unused scrap material.
  • A roof replacement generates 2-5 pounds of shingle waste per square foot. If those damaged shingles are recycled, the average-sized roof can help pave about 200 feet of road.

These recycling facts have been compiled from various sources including the Environmental Protection Agency, DoSomething.org, Missouri Recycling Association and Earth 911. If you have additional fun facts that you’d like to share with the Division of Environmental Health and Protection, please send us an email.