Recycling and energy use

The U.S. is the No. 1 trash-producing country in the world, generating 1,609 pounds per person per year, according to This means 5 percent of the world's people are producing 40 percent of the world's waste. In fact, one of every six trucks in the U.S. is a garbage truck.

Americans have been making efforts to recycle and save energy. As of 2008, there were 1.5 pounds of recycled materials per person per day in the U.S.

Following are some statistics regarding waste, recycling and energy use in the U.S. and the world:

  • Total building-related construction and demolition waste in the U.S. is estimated to be 135.5 million tons, representing 30 percent (the largest single source) of waste.
  • The average new construction project yields 3.9 pounds of waste per square foot of building area; so a 50,000-square-foot building produces 97.5 tons of waste. The average building demolition yields 155 pounds of waste per square foot; so a 50,000-square-foot building produces 3,875 tons of waste.
  • About 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper and flooring.
  • A steel mill using recycled scraps reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70 percent.
  • Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled item in the U.S. Other types of aluminum, such as siding, gutters or car components also can be recycled.
  • Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water each day—enough to fill 1,600 drinking glasses.
  • World electricity demand is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.
  • Each American uses about one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year.
  • More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling—nearly 360 pounds of paper per person.
  • An amount of paper equivalent to about 1 billion trees is thrown away in the U.S. each year.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, computer for three hours or television for two hours.
  • Glass never wears out and can be recycled forever.
  • Every year, the U.S. makes enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas.
  • Americans go through 25 billion plastic bottles every year.
  • About 70 percent of all metal is used just once and is discarded; the remaining 30 percent is recycled.
  • The average American spends eight full months of his or her life opening junk mail; the amount of junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
  • Producing cars from recycled aluminum decreases air pollution by 95 percent.
  • The average time it takes plastic bottles to decompose in a landfill is about 700 years; almost every hour, nearly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped.
  • Aluminum cans can be recycled and reused within 60 days.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to A success story.