Environment

Earth Day

We take a look at Earth Day by the numbers

April 01, 2013
MONTY RAKUSEN—GETTY IMAGES

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.

 

From 1990 to 2010, the total amount of garbage going into landfills dropped by almost 10 million tons.

 

Plastic

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

 

It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill.

 

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

 

Glass

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

 

Recycling one glass bottle can power a computer for 30 minutes.

 

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

 

Paper

Every year, Americans use more than 180,000 of paper and paperboard. That's an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year.

 

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

 

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

 

Water

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 more than 750,000 gallons of water per year. Around the world, the average is less than half of that figure.

 

Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. About 1,500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second.

 

 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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