15 Recycling Facts to Convince You to Go Green

Recycling is an important part of the global mission to protect the environment. As much as the battle against carbon emissions is one of the top priorities, waste management is essential in reducing our impact on the environment and conserving our resources. By looking at the statistics, we could be achieving an incredible reduction in the amount of generated waste in the U.S alone if we increase efforts. Recycling and reusing should become a norm in the 21st century. In today’s article, we’re going to look at some recycling facts that will hopefully convince you to adopt this necessary trend.

Related: Recycling -The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Waste and What You Can Recycle


  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s study in 2014, the United States generated almost 258 million tons of waste. Only 89 million tons out of the entire amount were recycled and composted. This means that the remaining 169 million tons ended up in a landfill and incinerated. Plastics form almost 13% of the total generated waste. So around 33% of waste was comprised of plastic, out of which only 3.17 million tons were recycled. It takes almost 500 years for plastic to decompose in a landfill.
  • Americans use 2,5 million plastic bottles every hour and they throw most away. In addition, Styrofoam coffee cups that are thrown away amount to 25,000,000,000 per year. Yearly, Americans use 102.1 billion plastic bags. Plastic bags are also a common waste item workers find on coastal cleanups. Plos One also published a study in 2014 which resulted in the fact that 5 trillion plastic pieces are afloat on our oceans. These pieces of plastic can kill almost one million sea creatures.
  • Recycling plastic can rise to costs of $4,000 per ton. However, the plastic scrap that American companies shipped can reach the value of millions of dollars. United Nations noted that a 2015 report showed that the 13,6 million tons of exported plastic scrap were valued at almost $5.4 billion dollars. U.S exporters alone shipped 2 million tons, which were valued at $810 million dollars. Therefore, from an economic perspective, recycling programs would not make such a dent in the national budget.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic can produce up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline. In addition, one ton of plastic could also produce approximately 2,000 lbs of oil that could make up for a year of energy consumption for two people.

Related: Waste Management Recycling: Meaning, Guidelines, and Materials List


clothes on a rack

Old clothes at a second-hand market

  • In 2014, Americans generated 16.22 million tons of textile waste. Only 16% of this amount was recycled even though almost all textiles are recyclable. On average, one American throws away almost 80 lbs of used clothing.
  • In the case of textile waste, consumers are the main offenders. Out of all the post-consumer products, only 15% can be recycled. On the other hand, manufacturers can recycle 75% of the pre-used clothing. Charities and take-back programs recycle only 0.1% into new fiber.
  • The yearly impact of textile waste on the environment equals to the amount of carbon emissions released by driving a car for 6,000 miles.
  • The U.S Textile Recycling Industry removes 2.5 billion lbs from the total generated waste. Their activities create 17,000 jobs, out of which 10,000 are semi-skilled workers who work in the first stages of processing the textiles and 7,000 who work in the final stages of the process. U.S exports 61% of all recyclable textiles.


  • Electronic waste worldwide amounted to 41.8 million tons in 2014. Statistics predict there will be a growth of 4-5% until 2018. United Stated alone generated 11.7 million tons of waste. EPA reports that electronic waste represents only 2% of the solid waste stream, however, it represents more than half the hazardous waste that is disposed in landfills.
  • According to EPA, there is a growth with regards to the electronic recycling rate. In 2010, the recycling rate was 19.6% and in 2011 the rate grew to 24.9%. In 2012, the growth registered to 29%.
  • EPA also reports that if we recycle one million phones, we can recover 20,000 lbs of copper, 20 lbs of palladium, 550 lbs of silver, and 50 lbs of gold. This conclusion follows another report that notes that only 8% of mobile phones were recycled in 2009. To put it in perspective, Americans alone throw away $60 million worth of precious metals annually.
  • Another study mentioned that in order to create a computer rig and a monitor takes almost one and a half ton of water, 48 lbs of chemicals and 530 lbs of fossil fuels. On the other hand, recycling one million laptops would power nearly 4,000 homes in the U.S for a year. The average electronic production per year is 1 billion cellphones and 300 million computers.

RelatedAll the E-waste Statistics You Should Know and 5 Recycling Tips


stacks of old paper

Old paper prepared for recycling

  • Paper recycling performs the best out of the total amount of generated waste. Americans recycle more paper than send to a landfill. The American Forest and Paper Association reports that one American recycles 334 lbs of paper on average annually. However, we cannot recycle paper on an indefinite period of time. Every time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter. If the fibers get too short, new fibers must be added to produce paper again. The very good news is that recycling paper helps with carbon sequestration efforts.
  • Recycled fiber is used in the U.S by more than 520 paper mills. Recycled fiber represents one-third of the production of new paper.
  • There are multiple benefits of recycling paper. Only one ton of paper can power an average American household for half a year. Recycling one ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water and over 3 cubic yards of landfill space.

RelatedHow Does Recycling Help the Environment? 10 Facts You Should Know

Final Words

Overall, paper recycling seems to be moving forward the most. However, according to these recycling facts, there is still a serious problem with plastic. Plastic pollutes not only on land but also our oceans, harming sea creatures. We should try to increase recycling efforts, especially since 75% of Americans have a recyclable waste stream. Nowadays, it’s incredibly easy to repurpose so many used items and the benefits would have the positive impact our environment deserves. It is also good to note that people worldwide are now more aware of our mission to ensure a greener future.

Image source: DepositPhotos: 1 and 2 and 3

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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