Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recycling is free! A Look at American Statistics and why we dont recycle more

Every other week I take my red white and blues(In Las Vegas our recycling bins are called this) out to the curb and I always look up and down the street to see how many of my neighbors also have theirs out usually its a very depressing number of about 20%. My first thought was its free why isn't everyone recycling? So started looking at all forms of recycling statistics online. There were plenty of stats on how much we consume and how much can be saved by recycling certain things. Here are just a few of the ones that jumped out me:

1. Recycling 1 aluminum can can save enough energy to power your TV for 3-4 hours.

2. A 60-watt light bulb can be run for over a day on the amount of energy saved by recycling 1 pound of steel.

The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!

Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.

Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.

The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

8. An Aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can in 500 years.

9. If all of our newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250 million trees a year.

10. The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.

These are just a few of the stats that there are on what we consume and what the savings would be if recycled certain things. With all that potential energy and cost savings why don't more people recycle? So I looked how many people recycle in the U.S. and I got some numbers that didn't add up. A Harris pole done in 2007 said that 77% of all Americans recycled. This was also reported by

But when I went to the EPA and found out that 60% of all our solid waste(garbage) in ends up in land fills I was confused. This means only 40% of our waste was being recycled yet 77% of Americans say they recycle. Now with 90% of our waste being recyclable should that amount be much higher. Is the Harris pole wrong? The short answer is yes, but there is allot more to the numbers than just simple math. The first part is that some people lie when asked about being green(the gnome will write about this later). The second part is those who do recycle regularly do a piss poor job of it. Americans are asked to separate paper, plastic, metals, and glass(70% of all your trash) from the rest of their waste and place them in small bins. If your recycling nut like me I'm sure you spend allot time smashing containers and cutting up boxes so that everything fits in the little bins they give you that they only pick-up once every other week. So no matter how diligent you are separating your garbage some waste still ends up in the regular trash because you don't have room in the small bins. Now I'm sure if study was done on average American that recycled we would find out that they were recycling less than half of what they could be recycling. Lets also not forget a very small percentage of Americans have a compost(recycling of leaves, grass, and foods) witch is 18% percent of our waste.

There are approximately 8,600 curbside recycling programs in the U.S. and they are all free. If you are not recycling your waste because there is no program in your area then you have an excuse, but you can call your local politician and demand one. My purpose of this blog was to find out why more people don't recycle.

If you have recycling program in your area and you don't recycle I would like to know why?

If you recycle part time why don't you do more of it(what are the problems you have had)?

If you do recycle regularly what are the problems you have had in your home and area?

Recycling is a very big part of us living sustainable lives so the Gnome would love to hear your problems with recycling. I would also love to hear your ideas on how we can make recycling easier for us all to do.
Also if you think you don't need to recycle because your garbage company recycles everything check and make sure. I'm sure you will shocked to find out that they don't. Most municipal waste companies only recycle what is giving to them by their recycling programs.


P.S. I will be writing several more post on recycling or if you have something you want to see written about by the Gnome just let me know and will do my best.


  1. YES!!! Please recycle. In the Seattle area we are lucky enough to have a great recycling program. We only put out one small bag of garbage a week, not even filing our can - the rest goes into recycle (mixed glass/paper), or yard waste (including COMPOST/food waste!). We can put out unlimited recycling even if its too big for our giant can they pick up every other week. I think if they offer recycling, you should get charged more depending on how much trash you put out. Our friends in Reno could put out SEVEN bags of trash a week for the same price. SEVEN!!!!! And gorgeous places like Whitefish, MT don't offer curbside recycling (too remote, too expensive?), but it pains me to throw away a cereal box when I visit. Sometimes we've been known to pack our recyclables out if we're on a road trip, and bring them back home! The recycling issue is an important one to me!!! :)

  2. it is not free for us to recycle in tucson, but my family still does it. our entire neighborhood does. in fact, i feel incredibly guilty if i forget. my husband finds it difficult to remember what is recyclable because in tucson there is a strict list of what we can include in our recycle bins. i would definitely recycle more if that were available to us. i think just making others aware of it is a really good start at increasing the numbers. thank you for your blog and starting another conversation about this issue!

  3. I'm from Australia where recycling is very common practice in the captial cities and smaller country towns. It is all about education and it really does come from the top down. In Las Vegas and Henderson we too only have the three little recycling bins every two weeks and general trash TWICE a week. In Sydney, Australia the program is reversed. Residence are given very small trash bins and large recycling bins, forcing them to act responsibly.
    Thanks for your post... keep on with educating!

  4. I am from Adelaide South Australia, and our recycling bin is larger than the rubbish bin, and has been that way for a reasonable time. In South Australia we have an excelent drink container pogramme wher 10 cents is given for every can, bottle and milk carton returned to a recycling depot.

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  9. Thanks for all the comments, sorry i havent wrote a post in a long time, but i will be posting something new very soon.


  10. It is true that though most of us are aware of its benefits to our environment not everyone is adopting recycling. But is now a necessity that we stop dumping into the landfills and find more ways that motivate people for recycling.


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