Paper | Aluminum | Glass | E-Waste | Plastic | Textile | Food | C+D | Steel

In a world that simply has too much waste, recycling is an important practice to reduce landfill disposal. Landfills are notoriously bad, for both us and the environment, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses such as methane into the atmosphere. Today, for example, the municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling rate in the US remains as low as 35%  and while numerous waste management initiatives aim to increase that number, there are plenty of challenges ahead for both consumers and the wider recycling industry.

One of the most evident challenges is found in the way we manage our waste streams. Today, each state, city, and metropolitan area takes a different approach to sustainability—meaning that what can be recycled in one town may be impossible to recycle in another. It’s no wonder that consumers at home don’t know what can be composted and what can’t, or whether those plastic bottles, paper towels, or old TVs have a place in our existing curbside recycling programs or municipal recycling bins.

One survey conducted by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) suggests that 66% of Americans would NOT recycle a product if it’s not easy or inconvenient to do so. It’s clear then, that removing the cloud of mystery surrounding our recycling practices while also increasing education and transparency is key to boosting recycling rates.

But how do we go about making recycling easier? How do we help recycled materials ease the burden on our dwindling natural resources? And what does the recycling landscape look like today? Here, we dive into a range of interesting recycling facts and statistics that will help both businesses and individuals get a better grasp of the recycling industry today.

Understanding recycling — What are the 3 Rs of recycling

Understanding the importance of recycling means we must acknowledge its place in our wider waste management practices. As part of the waste management hierarchy, recycling is the final piece of the three Rs system—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means that, while recycling is highly important in the way we manage waste today, we should be looking towards the reduction and reuse of materials as the priority. Reducing the burden on the recycling industry is key to helping it work more effectively and efficiently.


Paper recycling facts

Paper, paper products, and card are widely recycled across the US and it’s among the most commonly recycled components of municipal solid waste (MSW), however, the huge amounts of unnecessary waste generated is still a cause for concern. These stats help put our paper and card waste into perspective:



Aluminum recycling facts

Unlike many materials, aluminum can be recycled infinitely—at least in theory. However, while it is among the most easily recycled materials within our waste streams, and among the most profitable, tons of aluminum waste still ends up in landfill. Read these stats to understand our aluminum recycling habits.



Glass recycling facts

Glass takes a very long time to break down in landfill and the market for recycled glass is poor due to contamination, breakage, and separation by color. However, it is extremely easy to reuse and repurpose for a huge range of different applications. Here we look at the state of glass recycling today.



E-waste recycling facts

As one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world, e-waste is both difficult to recycle and full of toxic materials. Ensuring these types of products remain in circulation for as long as possible is critical to reducing the burden on the recycling industry and ensuring electronics don’t go to landfill. This is what the e-waste recycling landscape looks like today.



Plastic recycling facts

Single-use plastic remains a huge issue despite increasing awareness as to the damage it causes. Today, both consumers and producers are looking at ways to move away from our reliance on these materials, however, the statistics surrounding plastic disposal and recycling paint a worrying picture.



Textile recycling facts

The fashion industry is considered among the most environmentally destructive on the planet, and textile waste is a big part of the problem. Fast fashion plays a large role in the waste generated, and much of the textile waste we dispose of is recyclable. Reusing or donating old clothing can also help reduce the number of textiles going to landfill. Here, we look at the facts and figures surrounding textile waste.


  • Recycling rates for all textiles is around 15%.
  • The USA is a world leader in exporting used textiles, accounting for more than 40% annually.
  • 95% of textiles have the potential to be recycled or reused.


Food waste recycling facts

Food waste is a growing issue around the world, and while waste occurs at every stage of the process (from production to consumption), consumers generate the most waste by far. Composting is one way to deal with food waste, however, better management and organization can also help reduce food waste before recycling to expend less energy in production, distribution, and subsequently, recycling.



Construction and demolition (C&D) waste

C&D waste is notoriously difficult to recycle. This is due to both the types of materials used and the way the waste is generated, as demolition generally mixes all kinds of materials with little hope of separation. However, many materials associated with C&D can be reduced, reused, and recycled, and finding new ways to do this is important.



Solid waste and landfill facts

Municipal solid waste (MSW) is everything we throw away in our trashcans, and a shocking amount ends up in landfill or is sent to incinerators. By ensuring we recycle conscientiously, as well as educating ourselves on how to improve recycling rates we can significantly reduce waste. Here we look at the facts and figures on our landfill practices.


  • Daily garbage generation is about 728,000 tons.
  • During the winter holiday season, about 25% more trash is generated. That’s around 25 million tons.
  • Around one third of landfill space is taken up with packaging materials.
  • Michigan and Indiana have the most trash in landfills, while Tennessee and Texas have the least.


Steel recycling facts

Steel products, such as steel cans and other consumer items, can also be recycled infinitely without a loss of strength or integrity. However, manufacturing virgin steel takes a lot of energy and uses raw materials that must be mined, as well as releasing greenhouse gases during production. In addition to this, manufacturing one ton of steel is estimated to take 34000 gallons of water. Keeping it out of landfill is a must, however, reusing is also preferable to recycling. Having said this, recycling can and does save plenty of energy, as well as ensuring precious raw materials are used again in new products. Read these facts and learn about steel recycling today.


  • Steel is a ferrous metal, which means it is magnetic. This means it is easily separated by magnets during the recycling process.
  • Steel cans weigh 33% less today than they did 25 years ago.
  • Steel cans help keep food fresher for longer—meaning less food waste.

For more information on how both individuals and businesses can improve recycling rates and optimize waste management, subscribe to the RTS blog today. Additionally, for tailored insights into your waste management practices, contact one of our LEED-accredited advisors.

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