By now, you’ve likely seen the image of the sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged up its nose. If you haven’t, you either live under a rock or never, ever go on social media. Either way, sometimes all it takes is a reminder of what we’re doing to our precious planet, and to the cohabitants of it, to jolt us back to reality so we can make some changes in our lifestyles.
So, if driving past some litter on the side of the road every morning on the way to work isn’t enough to open your eyes, maybe these 10 shocking recycling and trash statistics will do the trick.
1. Over 21.5 million tons of food waste is generated each year. Had all that food been composted instead, the impact would be equivalent to taking two million cars off the road.
2. Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as it takes to burn it in an incinerator. Recycling just one ton of plastic can save the equivalent of up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline. It also helps keep biotoxins like PCBs out of our water and out of our food chain.
3. Around $11.4 billion worth of packaging is tossed every year— and that’s just here in the US, where, thanks to the rise of online shopping, a whopping one-third of the average dump is made up of just packaging material.
4. Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and other textiles wind up in landfills each year.
5. The US alone discards 16,000,000,000 diapers, 1,600,000,000 pens, 2,000,000,000 razor blades, 220,000,000 car tires each year.
6. If those numbers don’t shock you, maybe the fact that we discard enough aluminum each year to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over will.
7. The EPA estimates 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable. Only 30% of it is actually recycled.
8. On average, each person in the US produces 4.6 pounds of waste each day. This places the US as #1 for the highest amount of waste generated per person per day.
9. Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour,most of which winds up in a landfill.
10. Over the course of one year, just one busy supermarket can go through over 6 million paper bags. When you think of how many grocery stores this country has from coast to coast, that number becomes even more devastating.
Most of these statistics are the result of ignorance as well as sheer laziness. We can’t correct what we don’t know is broken, but when the day comes when we simply can’t be bothered to take that extra step in order to fix our blunders, we’re in some serious trouble. Buying reusable bags, recycling our metals and electronics responsibly, and being far more conscious in how much packaging we toss every day can all make a huge difference in keeping our landfills clear of unnecessary materials.