Waste Generation Environment Indicator – Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators

Ever more reason to reduce, reuse, recycle! -

In 2005, there were 245.7 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in the United States. This figure includes all manner of household waste, from food scraps to discarded packaging, furniture and appliances, to yard clippings. It does not include sludge from wastewater treatment or debris from constructing and demolishing buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.

The amount of waste being generated in the United States has been steadily increasing since 1960, when the first reliable national numbers became available.

This increase is due, in part, to increasing population. From 1960 to 2005, the population in the United States increased 65%, from 180 million to 296 million. During that same time period, waste increased 179%! The amount of waste being generated by each person increased 70%, from 2.68 pounds per person per day to an average of 4.54 pounds per person per day, as the graph below shows.

A Dubious Distinction…
This makes the United States one of the most wasteful countries in the world-almost double the per capita waste generation of countries with similar quality of life, such as Canada and New Zealand.

What Happens to Solid Waste?
As the next graph shows, the majority of the waste generated is disposed of in landfills: 133 million tons in 2005, up from 88 million tons in 1960. On a brighter note, the percentage of waste being recycled or composted has increased, too. In 1960, only 6% of all the municipal waste was recycled. Now, 32% is recycled or composted.

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