Trash Is America’s $384 Billion Problem

We’re all familiar with the environmental costs of throwing away as much garbage as Americans do (165 million tons in 2012): greenhouse gas emissions and risks to soil, air, and water quality. But what about the financial costs of all this waste?

Every year, solid waste costs the U.S. economy $384 billion.

Let’s break that number down:

$100 billion: The amount all U.S. municipalities spend each year to manage their solid waste

$100 billion: The dollar value of the energy wasted each year by throwing away materials that could be recycled or reused

$100 billion: The potential economic impact of increased manufacturing using recycled goods

$50 billion: The dollar value of recyclable materials going to landfills and incinerators

$34 billion: The potential payroll for additional recycling jobs that would be created (in collection, processing, and manufacturing) if we didn’t throw away our recyclable goods

Two dump trucks at landfill

That’s a $384 billion hit to the U.S. economy every year—just so that we can continue to throw away things that we could easily be recycling and reusing instead. It doesn’t need to be that way, and if we all act together to take simple steps to reduce our waste, it won’t be.

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