Environmental Facts

Did You Know?

  • In the U.S., 4.39 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year are created by the average person.
  • Only about one-tenth of all solid garbage in the United States gets recycled.
  • Every year we fill enough garbage trucks to form a line that would stretch from the earth, halfway to the moon.
  • Each day the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
  • Almost 1/3 of the waste generated in the U.S. is packaging.
  • Diapers: An average child will use between 8,000 -10,000 disposable diapers ($2,000 worth) before being potty trained. Each year, parents and babysitters dispose of about 18 billion of these items. In the United States alone these single-use items consume nearly 100,000 tons of plastic and 800,000 tons of tree pulp. We will pay an average of $350 million annually to deal with their disposal and, to top it off, these diapers will still be in the landfill 300 years from now. Americans throw away 570 diapers per second. That’s 49 million diapers per day.
  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • Every year, Americans make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  • The amount of glass bottles Americans throw away every two weeks would have filled both World Trade Center towers.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum cans to rebuild our commercial air fleet every three months, and enough iron and steel to supply all our nation’s automakers every day.
  • Throwing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as if that can were 1/2 full of gasoline.
  • In the U.S., an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays. Four million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
  • Americans receive almost 4 million tons of junk mail every year. Most of it winds up in landfills.
  • The average American uses 650 pounds of paper a year.
  • Each year, Americans trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.
  • Americans toss out enough paper & plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times.
  • The average American office worker goes through around 500 disposable cups every year.
  • Nearly 44 million American workers purchase or eat lunch out every weekday.
  • Americans make nearly 400 billion photocopies a year – about 750,000 copies every minute of every day.
  • U.S. fax machines sent 30 billion faxes in 1990.
  • U.S. businesses now use about 21 million tons of paper every year. That’s about 175 pounds of paper for each American.
  • Enough hazardous waste is generated in one year to fill the New Orleans Superdome 1,500 times over.
  • New York City alone throws out enough garbage each day to fill the Empire State Building.
  • In one day, Americans get rid of 20,000 cars and 4,000 trucks and buses.
  • As of 1992, 14 billion pounds of trash were dumped into ocean annually around the world.
  • Forty-three thousand tons of food is thrown out in the United States each day.
  • Americans throw out about 270 million tires every year.
  • Sixty-five billion aluminum soda cans are used each year.


  • Only two manmade structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill!
  • Barges (which run 24 hours a day) deliver over 14,000 tons of New York City trash to Fresh Kills every day. (Notes: The Fresh Kills Landfills is closing soon and is only being kept open to receive debris from the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center Towers).
  • In 1979, there were an estimated 18,500 landfills in the nation. In 1990 there were only about 6,300, and by 1995 it was estimated that only about 3,000 would still be open. In just 16 years the number of landfills dropped by 84%. During that same time there was an 80% increase in the amount of trash generated.
  • Seventy percent of U.S. municipal solid waste gets buried in landfills.
  • U.S. landfills are closing at the rate of 1 per day.


  • 108,234 tons of waste per day is incinerated.

Waste and Natural Resource Use

  • Every year, nearly 900,000,000 trees are cut down to provide raw materials for American paper and pulp mills.
  • Each American exerts three times as much pressure on the natural environment as the global average.
  • The average American, in one lifetime, uses: 18 tons of paper, 23 tons of wood, 16 tons of metal, and 32 tons of organic chemicals.
  • America is home to 5% of the world’s population, yet it consumes 1/3 of the Earth’s timber and paper; making paper the largest part of the waste stream at 37.5% of the total waste stream.
  • Every 4 quarts of oil discarded during an average oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of water.
  • People who change their own oil improperly dump the equivalent of 16 Exxon Valdez spills into the nation’s sewers and landfills every year.

Recycling Works!

  • 1,500 aluminum cans are recycled every second in the U.S.
  • Recycling an aluminum soda can saves 96% of the energy used to make a can from ore, and produces 95% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution.
  • It takes the energy equivalent of half a soda can of gasoline to produce one soda can from bauxite ore.
  • In 1986, 48.7% of all aluminum cans were being recycled. In 1990, that percentage increased to 63.6% and, in 1996, 63.5% were being recycled.
  • The amount of paper recycled annually by the average American in 1995 was 301.8 lbs., increasing in 1996 to 329 lbs.
  • Recycling one ton of cardboard saves over 9 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • One ton of paper from recycled pulp saves 17 trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 7,000 gallons of water, 4,200 kilowatt hours (enough to heat your home for half year), 390 gallons of oil, and prevents 60 pounds of air pollutants.
  • Producing recycled white paper creates 74% less air pollutants, 35% less water pollutants, and 75% less process energy than producing paper from virgin fibers.
  • Sixty percent of the world’s lead supply comes from recycled batteries.
  • It takes 90% less energy to recycle an aluminum can than to make a new one.