Fun Facts

Recycling is Fascinating

The more you know about recycling, the more interesting it becomes. Fair warning: once you start reading, it’s hard to stop.

Recylcing in GeneralRecycling in general

Currently less than 35% of households and less than 10% of businesses in the U.S. recycle. (EPA 2011)
Improving and increasing recycling is one of the greatest opportunities for our environment, our natural resources, and our economy!

In 2009, Americans recycled 82 million tons of materials. The resulting CO2 emission reduction is equivalent to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road.

The recyclable materials in the U.S. waste stream would generate over $7 billion if they were recycled.

The recycling industry employed over 1.1 million workers and generated over $236 billion in annual revenue in 2001. Increasing recycling rates and new collection programs show that the industry is growing.

There has been an approximate 100% Increase in total recycling in the US in the past decade.

The U.S. has the most pounds of trash per person per day (4.6 lbs of trash per person, 1.5 lbs of recycled materials per person)

Aluminum RecyclingAluminum Recycling

Every three months, Americans throw enough aluminum in the landfills to build our nation’s entire commercial air fleet.

Much of aluminum's recycling value comes from the energy saved when making aluminum from recycled material; it requires 95% less energy than making it from primary bauxite ore.

In the United States, over 100,000 aluminum cans are recycled each minute. That amounts to 53 billion cans recycled in 2010.

The U.S. recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans reached 58.1% in 2010.

About a third of all aluminum on the U.S. market is recycled scrap.

75% of all aluminum ever smelted is still in use.

Aluminum cans have 68% recycled content.

Aluminum CrushedTwenty recycled aluminum cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your television for three hours.

The amount of energy saved just from recycling aluminum cans in 2010 is equal to the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of crude oil, or nearly two days of all U.S. oil imports.

Aluminum can be recycled forever with NO loss of quality (good thing since we use over 80,000,000,000 aluminum cans each year).

Altogether, aluminum from recycled cans and other products account for about 50% of the aluminum industry's raw material metal supply.

Recycling is so efficient that it can take as few as 60 days for an aluminum can to be collected, melted, made into a new can and awaiting purchase on a supermarket shelf.

Recycled aluminum is the only material in the consumer waste stream that more than pays for its own cost of collection. Recycling one ton of aluminum cans typically yields well over $1,000 of revenue, while recycling a ton of steel, glass, plastics, or paper does not cover the average collection cost of $200 per ton.

Recylcing fun factsGlass Recycling

Americans generated 11.5 million tons of glass in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream in 2010. About 27% of the glass was recovered for recycling.

In 2009, Americans threw away almost 9 million tons of glass. That could fill enough tractor trailers to stretch from NYC to LA (and back!).

Glass container manufacturers use up to 70% recycled glass.

Over 80% of recycled glass containers are used to make new food and beverage containers. Food, soft drink, beer, wine and liquor containers represent the largest source of glass generated and recycled.

A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days.

Recycled glass is also used in the manufacture of a variety of things such as fiberglass insulation, roadbed aggregate, driving safety reflective beads, and decorative tile.

Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes, or a television for 20 minutes.

More than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills every year -- that is the equivalent of filling up two Empire State Buildings every three weeks.

One ton of carbon dioxide is reduced for every six tons of recycled container glass used in the manufacturing process.

States with container deposit legislation have an average glass container recycling rate of just over 63%, while non-deposit states only reach about 24%, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

In 2010, over 41% of beer and soft drink bottles were recovered for recycling, according to the U.S. EPA. Another nearly 25% of wine and liquor bottles and 18% of food and other glass jars were recycled. In total, 33.4% of all glass containers were recycled.

Glass recycling increased from 750,000 tons in 1980 to more than three million tons in 2010.

Glass is 100% recyclable, and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity, but recycled glass containers for food and beverages cannot be mixed with other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc., which are not recyclable. If these materials are introduced into the glass container manufacturing process, they can cause problems and defective containers.

For more glass recycling facts, visit the Glass Packaging Institute at

Recylcing fun factoidsPaper Recycling

Americans throw away enough office paper each year to build a 12 foot high wall from Seattle to NY.

As of 2010, 80% of U.S. paper mills (115 mills) relied on recycled paper. In fact, more than one-third of the raw material fiber used by American paper manufacturers comes from recycled paper.

Over 65% of paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2012. This results in avoided greenhouse gas emissions of more than 18.5 million metric tons of CO² equivalents each year.

Approximate 2012 recovery rates – paper and paperboard - 65%; corrugated cardboard - 91%; and newspaper - 70%.

31% of the paper and paperboard recovered in the U.S. in 2010 went to produce containerboard (i.e. corrugated boxes) and 12% went to produce boxboard (i.e. cereal boxes). 

Nearly 40% of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S. in 2010 was exported to China and other nations.

Producing recycled paper takes 40% less energy than producing paper from virgin wood pulp.

It takes 24 trees to make one ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper.

Making paper from recycled paper reduces the related contribution to air pollution by 95%.

Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree.

Recycling 1 ton of mixed paper saves the energy equivalent of 185 gallons of gasoline.

Recycling 1 ton of cardboard saves 46 gallons of oil.

Over 90% of all products shipped in the US are shipped in corrugated boxes, which totals more than 400 billion square feet of cardboard.

Nearly 80% of all retailers and grocers recycle their cardboard.

The average American uses about 650 lbs. of paper per year, or the equivalent of one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products.

Making a ton of paper from recycled paper saves up to 17 trees and uses 50% less water than does creating paper from virgin pulp.

For more interesting facts, visit

Recycle Steel BulkSteel Recycling

The overall steel recycling rate is a very impressive 83%.

Steel can be recycled infinitely without the loss of strength or durability.

Each year, more steel is recycled than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined.

Using recycled steel saves 80% of CO² emissions and 75% of the energy needed to make steel from virgin materials

In the past 50 years, more than 50% of the steel produced in this country has been recycled through the steelmaking process.

In 2009, Americans threw away 10.39 million tons of steel. That amounts to more than $3 billion in wasted material, or enough to buy lunch for everyone in the United States!

Each year, more than 70% of the steel the U.S. steel industry produces is recycled.

All North American steel contains recycled steel. If the steel is made in North America it has a minimum of 28% recycled content.

Recycling steel annually saves enough energy to power approximately 18 million North American households for one year.

81% of all obsolete appliances end up in recycling facilities.

The steel used in new appliances is made with approximately 28 percent recycled steel

25% of the steel used in cars and their internal parts is recycled steel. It is as strong or stronger than the steel from which it has been recycled.

Virtually every car taken off the road (nearly 98 out of 100) is recycled for its steel content.

Since 1972, the amount of energy required to produce a ton of steel has been reduced by 34%.

Recycling Scrap FactsPlastic Recycling

All plastics containers that are produced are identified by the type of resin used (#1 – #7). Plastic containers (#3 – #7) are not recycled into secondary products and are placed directly in landfills.

The plastic containers (#1 and #2) that are collected can only be recycled into secondary products (such as textiles, parking lot bumpers or plastic lumber).  Once secondary products are used, the plastic containers cannot be recycled any further.

Every pound of recycled PET used in place of virgin material reduces energy use in plastic production by 84% and greenhouse gas emissions by 71%

Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles, most of which are thrown away.  In landfills, where plastic bottles are shielded from sunlight, they will not decompose for thousands of years.

Five plastic bottles (PET) recycled provides enough fiber to create one square feet of carpet or enough fiber fill to fill one ski jacket.

Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.

Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two person household for one year.

Can you find the cat in this photo?

Recycling Fun Find Cat