What is the Trash Problem?
People in the US throw away billions of pounds of trash every year—and spend billions of dollars to do it. The cost of dealing with all this trash is rising much faster than the rate of inflation, creating a financial burden for cities and towns across the country.
Every year, we throw away enormous amounts of recyclable materials:
In one year, capturing and reusing all recyclable materials would:
- Save 2.6 quadrillion BTUs, which is enough energy to power 18% US homes for an entire year
- Reduce carbon emissions by 307.5 million metric tons of CO2
- Like taking one 1 of every 4 US cars off the road
Costs and Economic Damage
Trash costs the US economy a staggering $384 billion each year: $200 billion in expenses that could be avoided by cutting waste and $184 billion in lost revenue and economic development.
Wouldn’t this money be better spent on things like schools, parks, roads, and public safety, rather than simply throwing it away?
Notes: Data on specific materials discarded annually in the US residential and commercial waste stream derived from Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013, US EPA, June 2015; Conversions to trees, barrels of oil, and cans use a calculator provided by Waste Management, Inc. on its corporate website; Estimated energy savings from diversion of waste calculated using the EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM).