A Data-Driven Guide to Waste and Landfills — Environmental Protection

How Much Do We Waste? A Data-Driven Guide to Waste and Landfills

Although the amount of waste on our planet is estimated to increase, there are steps we can take now to change that.

Waste is a global issue. From electronic devices to unused food, a lot of what is thrown away ends up in a landfill. While concerted efforts are being made across the globe to incorporate recycling initiatives, these endeavors can quickly go astray when rubbish isn’t handled with the correct care and attention.

This comprehensive guide takes a closer look at the question posed in the headline: how much do we waste? The article also details where it ends up, how recycling and other solutions can help with the problem and how businesses can manage waste. With how waste continues to mount up, tacking the problem head-on is crucial–otherwise, the environmental impact it provokes will have further consequences for the planet.

How Much Do We Throw Away?

To get a greater idea about waste and the concern it poses, it’s essential to take a closer look at just how much is thrown away. There are many different forms of waste, with some of the main culprits including:

  • Electronic devices
  • Hazardous materials
  • Discarded food
  • Plastic
  • Paper and paperboard
  • Textiles
  • Metal
  • Wood

If this waste isn’t correctly managed, there’s ultimately only one destination it will end up: a landfill. Add in factors such as population growth, the continued demand for disposable products and the short shelf life for everything from smartphones to sneakers, and there are many reasons why waste continues to build at an alarming rate.

The following statistics help to illustrate the worrying picture.

Waste Statistics

Whether you’re analyzing global figures or centering on the United States, the situation is far from healthy—and that’s putting it mildly. Waste is a massive issue, and the following statistics demonstrate why this is the case.

  • Annually, 2.12 billion tons of waste is produced across the world.
  • Of that waste, 1.3 billion tonnes is made up of food. That’s over three trillion meals each year wasted, approximately one-third of all food generated for human consumption.
  • At least 33 percent of the planet’s waste is not managed in an environmentally safe way. That’s only a conservative figure, which means the percentage could ultimately be even more frightening.
  • The average daily waste per person averages 0.74 kilograms worldwide. However, the range for this can vary drastically depending on location. This goes from 0.11 kilograms to 4.54 kilograms.
  • By 2050, it is expected that global waste will grow to 3.40 billion. This growth is more than twice the population growth during the same time period.
  • Annually, it is estimated the world’s oceans are polluted by 10 million metric tons of plastic.
  • Twelve percent of the world’s trash comes from America. This is despite the country only making up 4 percent of the globe’s population.
  • In 2018, America was responsible for producing 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste. That’s almost 5 pounds per person, per day.
  • The waste management market in North America was valued at $208 billion in 2019. The U.S. accounts for most of the market.
  • The U.S. manages 35.2 million tons of hazardous waste.
  • Each year, estimates suggest the U.S. produces around 103 million tons of food waste.
  • Due to household leaks, the average U.S. family can waste 180 gallons of water each week, or 9,400 gallons per year. That’s the same amount of water required to wash over 300 laundry loads. On a nationwide scale, household leaks can lead to almost 900 billion gallons of water being wasted annually.
  • America currently has a recycling and composting rate of 32.1 percent.
  • 25 million plastic bottles are thrown away each hour in America.

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