Recycling Facts

Facts are organized by category: water, energy, paper, metal, aluminum cans, glass, plastic, styrofoam, steel, junk mail, garbage, tires, food, and miscellaneous.


  • Between 1950 and 2000, the U.S. population nearly doubled. However, in that same period, public demand for water more than tripled! Americans now use an average of 100 gallons of water each day - enough to fill 1,600 drinking glasses! (EPA, 2008)
  • A recent government survey showed that at least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013. (EPA, 2008)
  • Most people realize that hot water uses up energy, but supplying and treating cold water requires a significant amount of energy too. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year - enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year. (EPA, 2008)

Appliances and Fixtures in General

  • If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year! (EPA, 2008)
  • If one out of every 100 American homes was retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year - avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gas savings would be equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year! (EPA, 2008)

Bathroom: Sink, Toilet, Bath, Shower

  • About 75 percent of the water we use in our homes is used in the bathroom. (California Energy Commission, 2006)
  • If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. Newer, high-efficiency toilets use less than 1.3 gallons per flush - that's at least 60 percent less water per flush! (EPA, 2008)
  • If just 1 percent of American homes replaced an older toilet with a new WaterSense labeled toilet, the country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity - enough electricity to supply more than 43,000 households for one month. (EPA, 2008)
  • The average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month. (EPA, 2008)
  • Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours. (EPA, 2008)
  • Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year; A leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day. If your fixtures have leaks, you should get them repaired! (EPA, 2008)
  • A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons. (EPA, 2008)

Other Household Water Needs

  • The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load, whereas newer, high-efficiency washing machine models use less than 28 gallons of water per load. (EPA, 2008)
  • The typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of their water outdoors for irrigation. Some experts estimate that more than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation or runoff caused by overwatering!
  • Consider installing a drip irrigation system to water your lawn and garden. These systems use between 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional in-ground sprinkler systems. They are also much more efficient than conventional sprinklers because no water is lost to wind, runoff, and evaporation. (EPA, 2008)

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  • World electricity demand is expected to double between 2000 and 2030. The greatest increase will occur in the developing world, and the most rapid growth will occur in people's homes. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)
  • Electricity production is the leading cause of industrial air pollution in the United States, and is responsible for 40 percent of the nation's carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)
  • At most, 35 percent of coal's energy in a power plant converts to electricity. The remaining two thirds is lost as waste heat, benefiting no one and often harming surrounding ecosystems. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)


  • Almost half of the average home's energy consumption is used for heating. (EIA, 2007)
  • Improperly sealed/caulked windows can account for up to 25% of total heat loss from a house. (Environment Canada, 2007)


  • Lighting consumes up to 34 percent of electricity in the United States. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are an energy-saving alternative to incandescent bulbs - they produce the same amount of light, use one third of the electricity, and last up to ten times as long. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)
  • If every household replaced its most often-used incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, electricity use for lighting could be cut in half. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)
  • Where electricity is produced from coal, each fluorescent lightbulb used prevents 1,300 pounds (nearly 600 kilograms) of CO2 emissions and 20 pounds of sulfur dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere. (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)

Appliances and Electronics

  • If you need to warm up or defrost small amounts of food, use a microwave instead of the stove to save energy. Microwave ovens use around 50 percent less energy than conventional ovens do. (California Energy Commission, 2006)
  • A refrigerator built 20 years ago uses 70% more energy than today's energy-efficient models. (Environment Canada, 2007)
  • Today's dishwashers are about 95% more energy-efficient than those bought in 1972 - your old dishwasher may be costing you more money in energy bills than it would take to buy a new one. (Environment Canada, 2007)
  • Many idle electronics - TVs, VCRs, DVD and CD players, cordless phones, microwaves - use energy even when switched off to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working. Nationally, these energy "vampires" use 5 percent of our domestic energy and cost consumers more than $8 billion annually. (Alliance to Save Energy, 2005)

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  • Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. (EPA, 2008)
  • More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling - an all-time high. This impressive figure equals nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America. (Paper Industry Association Council, 2007)
  • More than 400 paper mills in the United States use at least some recovered materials in their manufacturing processes, and more than 200 of those mills use recovered fiber exclusively. (EPA, 2008)

Savings: Energy, Water, etc.

  • De-inked paper fiber is the most efficient source of fiber for the manufacturing of new paper products; one ton of de-inked pulp saves over 7000 gallons of water, 390 gallons of oil, and reduces air emissions by 60 lbs compared to traditional virgin fiber processes. (Abitibi Consolidated, 2005)
  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity - enough energy to power the average American home for five months. (EPA, 2008)
  • Recycling paper instead of making it from new material generates 74 percent less air pollution and uses 50 percent less water. (EPA, 2008)
  • Producing recycled paper requires about 60 percent of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp. (EPA, 2008)
  • Uses of Recycled Paper
    • Just over 48% of office paper is recovered for recycling. This becomes raw material for paperboard, tissue, and printing and writing papers. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
    • Over 73% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation, or exported. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
    • Approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. (American Forest and Paper Association, 2002)
    • Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter. (EPA, 2008)

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  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials. Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. (EPA, 2008)
  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.
  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.
  • Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation's automakers on a continuous basis.
  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70%.
  • When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you'd filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground.


  • More than 50% of a new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum.
  • The 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. (Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried.)

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  • Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1.350-foot towers of the former World Trade Center.
  • Most bottles and jars contain at least 25% recycled glass.
  • Glass never wears out -- it can be recycled forever. We save over a ton of resources for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar.
  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.
  • If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they'd reach the moon and half way back to earth.


  • Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas.
  • Americans go through 25 billion plastic bottles every year.
  • 26 recycled PET bottles equals a polyester suit. 5 recycled PET bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.
  • In 1988 we used 2 billion pounds of HDPE just to make bottles for household products. That's about the weight of 90,000 Honda Civics.
  • If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we'd keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.


  • It is un-recyclable- you can't make it into new Styrofoam. The industry wants you to assume it is- don't BUY it!
  • Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, enough every year to circle the earth 436 times.


  • The steel industry's annual recycling saves the equivalent energy to electrically power about 18 million households for a year. Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone is preserved.
  • Every day Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York... and back. If we only recycle one-tenth of the cans we now throw away, we'd save about 3.2 billion of them every year.
  • The average American throws out about 61 lbs. of tin cans every month.
  • About 70% of all metal used just once and is discarded. The remaining 30% is recycled. After 5 cycles, one-fourth of 1% of the metal remains in circulation.

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  • If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees.
  • The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
  • The average American still spends 8 full months of his/her life opening junk mail.


  • In 1865, an estimated 10,000 hogs roamed New York City, eating garbage. Now, one of every six U.S. trucks is a garbage truck.
  • In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his/her adult weight in garbage. If you add it up, this means that a 150-lb. adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs of trash for his/her children.
  • The average baby generates a ton of garbage every year.
  • The landfill gas produced daily at Fresh Kills Landfill is enough fuel to heat 50,000 homes.


  • It takes half a barrel of crude oil to produce the rubber for just one truck tire.
  • Every two weeks, Americans wear almost 50 million pounds of rubber off their tires. That's enough to make 3 1/4 million new tires from scratch.
  • Producting one pound of recycled rubber versus one pound of new rubber requires only 29% of the energy.


  • $1 out of every $11 Americans spend for food goes for packaging.
  • Americans dump the equivalent of more than 21 million shopping bags full of food into landfills every year.


  • One gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water.
  • Most cars on U.S. roads carry only one person. We have so much extra room in our 140 million cars that everyone in Western Europe could ride with us.
  • If today is a typical day on planet earth, humans will add fifteen million tons of carbon to the atmosphere, destroy 115 square mils of tropical rainforest, create seventy-two square miles of desert, eliminate between forty to one hundred species, erode seventy-one million tons of topsoil, add twenty-seven hundred tons of CFCs to the stratosphere, and increase their population by 263,000.
  • Almost four million computer diskettes are thrown away every day, which equals over on and a half billion disks per year or a stack of disks as tall as the Sears Tower in Chicago every 21 seconds. It will take nearly 500 years for the disks to degrade.

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