How Much Garbage Does The Average American Generate?


nhull | Student

According to PBS, Americans throw away an average of 4.4 pounds of trash a day.

fact-finder | Student

According to one study, each American produces about 230 million tons of refuse a year. That's 5.1 pounds (2.3 kilograms) per person a day or about 1,900 pounds (863 kilograms) per year. Another survey reported that a typical suburban family of three generated 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of garbage weekly, with the percentages of various components presented below:

Type of solid waste Percent
Aluminum 1
Polystyrene meat trays, cups, egg cartons, and packing 3
Disposable diapers 3
Wood, textiles, old clothing 5
Metal cans and nails 5
Plastic soda bottles and bags 5
Glass 8
Miscellaneous 10
Food 11
Paper 21
Yard waste and grass clippings 23

In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an analysis of solid waste generated by individuals over a span of nearly three decades. In addition to reporting an increase of garbage generated per person over time, the EPA found that the content of garbage had changed.

Garbage in pounds per person per day
Waste materials 1960 1970 1980 1988
Total nonfood product wastes 1.65 2.26 2.57 2.94
Paper and paperboard 0.91 1.19 1.32 1.60
Glass 0.20 0.34 0.36 0.28
Metals 0.32 0.38 0.35 0.34
Plastics 0.01 0.08 0.19 0.32
Rubber and leather 0.06 0.09 0.10 0.10
Textiles 0.05 0.05 0.06 0.09
Wood 0.09 0.11 0.12 0.14
Other 0.00 0.02 0.07 0.07
Other wastes
Food wastes 0.37 0.34 0.32 0.29
Yard wastes 0.61 0.62 0.66 0.70
Miscellaneous inorganic waste 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.06
Total waste generated 2.66 3.27 3.61 4.00

Sources: Good Housekeeping, vol. 209 (September 1989), p. 272; The 1992 Information Please Environmental Almanac, p. 108; Rush to Burn: Solving America's Garbage Crisis, pp. 21, 29.

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