Did You Know? Recycling Facts
from Keep America Beautiful

  • Overall, Americans recovered 34% of waste generated in 2009. That means we threw away 161 million tons of material, which amounts to about three pounds of garbage per person per day. 
  • 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. That’s equivalent to Donald Trump’s net worth. 
  • 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.


  • In the United States, over 100,000 aluminum cans are recycled each minute. That amounts to 53 billion cans recycled inRMM_AluminumCan 3 2010. However, over $1.1 billion in aluminum cans were wasted in 2010.
  • Used aluminum cans are recycled and back on the shelf as new cans in as few as 60 days.
  • Twenty recycled 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.
  • Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves between 60 and 74 percent of the energy used to produce them from raw materials.
  • Recycling one ton of steel conserves 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.
  • 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!


  • NewspaperIn 2010, Americans trashed enough paper to cover 26,700 football fields or 17,800 soccer fields in paper three feet deep.
  • Producing recycled paper takes 40% less energy than producing paper from virgin wood pulp.
  • Using recycled scrap paper instead of virgin material saves 7,000 gallons of water per ton of paper produced.
  • Recycled paper production creates 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution than virgin paper production.


  • RMM_PlasticBottle-PET 2Every pound of recycled PET used in place of virgin material reduces energy use in plastic production by 84% and greenhouse gas emissions by 71%
  • If all 8 billion pounds of plastic bottles produced in the U.S. in 2009 had been recycled, the material could have produced 22 million extra large t-shirts.
  • Americans recycled 200 million more pounds of plastic bags and film in 2009 than we recycled in 2005.
  • In 2009, almost 30 million tons of plastics were generated in the United States, and only around 2 million tons were recovered.


  • GlassBottlesGreenBrown-recyclingIn 2009, 12 million tons of glass was generated in the United States, and 3 million tons were recovered.
  • 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.
    • Use of cullet in place of raw material saves energy because it melts at a lower temperature. That means it also emits less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, two greenhouse gasses.


These facts and more can be found on the Keep America Beautiful website, a national non-profit dedicated to reducing waste and protecting the natural areas in our communities.