Growing Trash Volumes Afflict the Nation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released its latest data on how much stuff Americans are throwing away and how much is being reused or recycled. Entitled, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report, this new compendium of data is based on monitoring from 2015.

Unfortunately, the news is not good.

Trashy Trends Outstrip Recycling

Americans generated 262 million tons of trash in 2015 (called "municipal solid waste," or MSW, as municipalities are the ones who haul and manage the stuff). That means Americans generated 4.40 pounds of trash per person per day. To add some perspective, in 1960 Americans generated only 2.68 pounds per person per day, so our consumption habits today are about 80 percent more wasteful than they were then. While the overall waste volume has increased, the percentage of materials being recycled stayed fairly level over the past few years at about 34 percent.

A new study shows that the cost of landfilling trash continues to increase and raises costs for disposal. Some areas have seen a more than 10 percent increase in one year. Click here to read more about it from the online journal Waste360.

Textiles Wasted

Consistent with the overall trend, textile waste increased from 15.13 million tons in 2013 to 16.30 million tons in 2015. In other words, Americans generated an additional 1.2 million tons of unwanted textiles in 2015 than they did just two years prior to that. The percentage being recovered and recycled remained flat at about 15 percent.

This means that nearly 14 million tons of textiles were needlessly discarded in 2015. Of that 14 million ton amount, 10.5 million tons were sent to landfills and 3 million tons were torched in incinerators. That is an immense mountain of wasted resources, which could have been put to good use by being reused or recycled.

Source: USEPA, Facts and Figures About Materials, Waste and Recycling

Savings in Greenhouse Gasses

But let's look at the positive side. There were 2.3 million tons of textiles that were saved from disposal and which helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA estimates that recycling that many tons was the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road! That is great news, but just imagine how much more we could do, and must do.

Planet Aid is working diligently to make our recycling bins more convenient for consumers to access, but our efforts are being outstripped by the burgeoning waste stream (due to fast fashion and other trends). We welcome additional partnerships with municipalities to help them reduce their landfill burdens, increase waste diversion rates, and save taxpayer dollars.

See our Government Resources page for more information or contact us directly to find out how to get a recycling bin in your area.