Earth Day

We take a look at Earth Day by the numbers

April 01, 2013

Recycling companies process the materials from empty containers to build new ones.

Energy & Waste

The average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day. Over the course of a year, that is more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. 

Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste - approximately 3,000 pounds per second.

The recycling rate has increased from less than 10% in 1980 to more than 34% in 2011.


In 2012, the U.S. produced 32 million tons of plastic. Only 9% was recovered for recycling.

It takes about 450 years for plastic beverage bottles to break down in a landfill.

The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes.


It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill.

The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

Producing glass from new materials requires 30% more energy than using used glass.


Americans use about 69 million tons of paper and paperboard each year.

Preventing one ton of paper waste saves between 15 and 17 mature trees.

By recycling 1 ton of paper, we save enough energy to heat a home for six months.


Almost 97% of the world's water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing, and personal needs.

The average American uses about 100 gallons of water per day and more than 100,000 gallons of water per year.

Every square mile of the oceans contains more than 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.

About 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean each year.


Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, Associated Press, Clean Air Council, Recycle Across America

Click here to return to the Earth Day mini-site.

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