Reduce, re-use and recyle! Here are some ways that Americans trash their planet, and what you can do about it.
- The average American throws away 4.5 pounds of trash a day.
- To give you an idea of how much trash we generate here in the United States, imagine a hole the size of a football field, including the end zones. If we bury all of the trash we produce in just one year, that hole would be 100 miles deep!
- 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 America is packaging.
- In 1995 27% of the United States' food supply spoiled or went unused (48 million tons).
- Americans buy 2.3 million pairs of shoes a day - enough to cover the bottom of a 17-acre closet with shoe boxes.
- An average child will use between 8 -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. Plastic does not biodegrade; these diapers will still be in the landfill 300 years from now.
- If more people became environmental shoppers, the amount of trash could be reduced by as much as 45 percent.
Plastic, glass, and other substances
- We throw away more than 60 million plastic bottles a day.
- Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
- In America, 1,500 aluminum cans are recycled every second.
- 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.
- Throwing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as if that can were 1/2 full of gasoline.
- The average American uses 650 pounds of paper a year.
- Each year we trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.
- One ton of paper from recycled pulp saves 17 trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 7000 gallons of water, 4200 kilowatt hours (enough to heat your home for half year), 390 gallons of oil, and prevents 60 pounds of air pollutants.
- 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.
- That styrofoam cup that you drank your coffee out of this morning will still be in the landfill 500 years from now.
- One quart of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of water. Just one properly drained oil filter holds about 1/2 cup of motor oil. This is enough oil to pollute 31,250 gallons of water.
Over 500 million oil filters have to be disposed of each year.
- Approximately 60% of Americans change their own oil. Due to the lack of convenient collection facilities, these do-it-yourselfers simply dump the used motor oil into the environment. Over 200 million gallons of oil, or the equivalent of five oil tankers the size of the Exxon Valdez spilling their entire load, is tossed in the garbage or poured down the sewer every year.
- The plastic used in one toner cartridge contains about a half quart of oil.
- Out of a barrel of crude oil you can get 2.5 quarts of virgin motor oil, while it takes only a gallon of used motor oil to get the same amount of high quality motor oil.
Household Hazardous Waste
- Every day American families produce an estimated 4 million pounds of household hazardous waste (nail polish, paint thinner, batteries, etc.).
- Enough hazardous waste is generated in one year to fill the New Orleans Superdome 1500 times over.
- Sixty percent of the world's lead supply comes from recycled batteries.
- In 1979 there were an estimated 18,500 landfills in the nation. By 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there were 1,654 landfills. Landfills have kept pace with the amount of trash generated—they’ve just become larger, more efficient and more environmentally safe.
- Figures from the 45-year period between 1960 and 2005 show a dramatic change in the way we reduce, re-use and recycle:
- The population grew 65 percent from 179.98 million people to 296.41 million, an increase of 116.43 million people.
- The volume of material put into landfills amounted to 133.3 million tons in 2005 -- that's less than the amount landfilled in 1980 when the country had almost 70 million fewer people.