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40 Reasons to Think Differently About Your Trash: Facts, Statistics & More

The biggest global problem no one’s really talking about? Trash. With a new year, comes new mindsets…new goals…new actions. So, here are some  straight-up facts about trash and waste. Below, some key waste facts and statistics that will hopefully push you to think a little differently about the current way our population is disposing of its trash.

1. The average United States resident creates over 4 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year.

2. Americans make up roughly 5% of the world’s population, but generate nearly 40% of the world’s total waste.

3. On a daily basis, the United States produces enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.

4. If every garbage truck we filled (annually) was placed end-to-end, it would cover half the distance to the moon or ~119,450 miles.

5. The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, including roughly 500 disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper.

6. In a lifetime, the average American will leave a legacy of 90,000 pounds of trash for future generations.

7. Today, most communities are spending more on waste management than they are for schoolbooks, fire protection, libraries, and parks.

8. Globally, enough hazardous waste is generated each year to fill the New Orleans Superdome more than 1,500 times over.

9. New York City residents throw out enough garbage each day to fill the entire Empire State Building.

10. The only relatively “clean” place on Earth is Antarctica. It is protected by the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits military activities, mineral mining, nuclear explosions and nuclear waste disposal.

11. The amount of office paper wasted each year in the state of Massachusetts is enough to fill Fenway Park to the height of the Prudential Building (920 feet high).

12. Nearly one-third of the waste generated yearly in the United States is from product packaging.

13. Roughly 8,000-10,000 disposable diapers are used and thrown away before an average child is potty-trained.

14. Annually, potty-training in the US accounts for the use of 18 billion disposable diapers per year, 49 million per day, and 570 per second.

15. Diaper disposal costs equate to $350 million annually.

16. Disposable diapers will still be in the landfill 300 years after they were put there.

17. Americans throw out enough plastic cutlery (disposable cups, forks, spoons, and knives) annually to wrap around the equator 300 times, or 7,470,435 miles worth.

18. Americans throw out roughly 270 million tires annually.

19. Annually the United States discards roughly 1.6 billion pens and 2 billion razor blades.

20. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.

21. Because landfills are so densely packed, much of the degradation that occurs is anaerobic (without air).

22. Anaerobic processes create a tremendous amount of methane gas, a major greenhouse gas whose environmental impact is 25x greater than carbon dioxide.

23. Americans throw away 5.7 million tons of carpet every year.

24. Only 4% of the world’s children live in the US, but Americans buy (and throw away) 40% of the world’s toys.

25. Americans throw out roughly 43,000 tons of food daily.

26. Each American throws out roughly 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that could be repurposed as compost.

27. Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (approximately 1.3 billion tons) is wasted.

28. Latin America: The food currently lost or wasted could feed ~300 million people.

29. Europe: The food currently or wasted could feed ~200 million people.

30. Africa: The food currently lost or wasted could feed ~300 million people.

31. If one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed roughly 870 million people.

32. Annually, more than 14 billion pounds of garbage is dumped into the world’s ocean (mainly marine life toxic plastic).

33. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Pacific trash vortex, is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. According to some estimates, the patch can be as large as twice the size of the US and would take 67 ships one year to clean up less than 1% of the garbage mass.

34. Almost half of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic found in or around their bodies.

35. Every year, over 50 million tons of electronic waste (i.e. cell phones, computers, TVs, etc.) is created.

36. In the United States alone, over 140 million cell phones are thrown into landfills every year.

37. If all U.S. cell phones were recycled in a given year, it would save enough energy to power ~25,000 households for one year.

38. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of powering 3,657 American homes.

39. According to the EPA, only 12.5% of e-waste  in the US is recycled.

40. Annually, Americans throw out old phones containing over $60 million in gold and/or silver.

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