National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
E: info@wasterecycling.org
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To use our contact form and to subscribe to our free publications, click here.
Media: Chris Doherty at 202-364-3751 or cdoherty@wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at beginwiththebin.org.

Know your Trash Facts

Learn a few facts about waste and recycling industry. How much trash is generated by Americans? How do America’s waste and recycling professionals protect our environment and serve our communities? Get facts about America’s recyclables, reliable and renewable waste-based energy and the integration of new technologies to collect and process trash.

Waste and Recycling Industry Facts

The waste and recycling industry provides an essential service to local communities across the country by protecting the environment and public health. The efficient and dependable removal of waste is a key service for keeping our communities clean and society healthy. Imagine if your trash was not picked up!

Fact: The waste industry successfully manages nearly 545 million tons of waste per year, including 251 million tons of MSW.

We have developed innovative landfill technologies to protect the environment.

Fact: Today’s modern, state-of-the-art landfills are sited, engineered, built, operated, and maintained in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

Fact: Waste and recycling companies have received awards and recognition from environmental groups for their protection of the environment.

Fact: The industry continues to investigate and research emerging and innovative technologies and operating procedures to ensure the safe landfilling of waste.

We are an industry that uses science and technical expertise.

Fact: Chemists, biologists, geologists, hydrologists, and soil scientists as well as civil and environmental engineers in the industry protect the environment while developing more sustainable waste management practices.

Fact: Industry experts assist regulators in developing regulations and guidance to protect the environment.

Fact: Approximately 100,000 trucks collect and transport garbage and recyclables in the United States. America’s waste and recycling industry is investing in trucks using alternative fuels and new technologies. These investments in new truck technologies and other innovative equipment will conserve energy, protect our environment, and increase efficiencies.

We contribute to our local communities economically, socially, as well as environmentally.

Fact: The top 100 companies in waste management in the United States and Canada employ over 200,000 people.

Fact: The waste and recycling industry is a reliable first responder during natural disasters and crises. For example, many industry companies offered neighborhood support following recent hurricanes.

Fact: Waste and recycling companies and employees are active community participants and promote civic goals and goodwill through sponsorships and direct involvement.

Recycling Industry Facts

Recycling and composting are key parts of our business. We have introduced increasingly consumer-friendly and efficient methods of collecting and sorting recyclables to increase participation, spending millions educating consumers on the benefits of recycling.

Fact: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans reach a 34.5 percent recycling rate in 2012.

Fact: The industry collected and processed more than 65 million tons of recyclables and composted over 20 million tons of yard and food waste.

Fact: Recycling rates increased from 6 percent in 1960 to over 34 percent in today.

Fact: Americans generated only 2.68 pounds of trash per person per day in 1960. This peaked in 2000 at 4.74. Since then, it has dropped to 4.38 pounds per person per day in 2012. Per capita disposal to the landfill is at its lowest point since 1960, having peaked in 1980.

Fact: Total generation of MSW increased from 88.1 million tons in 1960 to 250.9 million tons in 2012. Total generation peaked in 2005 at 253.7 million tons and has dropped slightly since then.

Technological advancements developed by the waste and recycling industry have significantly boosted recycling rates during the last two decades.

Fact: Consumer-friendly and efficient innovations by the industry such as single-stream recycling and the curbside collection of recyclables along with other household trash have contributed to increased recycling rates.

Fact: According to the EPA, in 2011 there were 9,800 curbside recycling programs operational in the U.S.

Fact: In 2012, 3,120 community composting programs were operational in the U.S.

Fact: The industry has spent millions educating consumers on the benefits of recycling.

Recycling reduces the waste that ends up in our landfills and provides tangible environment benefits.

Fact: Recycling reduces emissions that contribute to pollution and climate change. By recycling and composting nearly 87 million tons in 2012, the industry eliminated greenhouse gas emissions totaling nearly 168 million metric tons of carbon equivalents – an amount equivalent to removing more than 33 million cars from the road in one year.

Fact: Recycling conserves vital natural resources and saves energy. Some examples:

  • Recycled paper products require 40 percent less energy than paper made from fresh lumber;
  • Manufacturing plastic from recyclables takes 75 percent less energy; and
  • Making aluminum cans from recycled materials takes 95 percent less energy.

Waste-Based Energy Facts

We are generating clean renewable energy from solid waste. When garbage decomposes in a landfill, it creates landfill gas that contains methane, a reliable and renewable source of energy that if turned into energy, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of energy, and our dependence on foreign energy.

The waste and recycling industry has pioneered two major technologies that allow energy to be generated from waste and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels: landfill-gas-to-energy projects and waste-to-energy facilities.

Fact: According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, in 2012, renewable energy made up 9 percent of the nation’s energy consumption. Energy from biomass waste made up 5 percent of America’s renewable energy.

The waste and recycling industry is a leader in producing clean, renewable energy from landfill gas.

Fact: When garbage decomposes in a landfill, it creates gas that contains about 50 percent methane.

Fact: According to the EPA, as of July 2014, at least 636 operational projects in 48 states generate nearly 2,000 megawatts of electricity per year and deliver enough renewable energy to power nearly 1.1 million homes and heat over 700,000 homes.

Fact: As of July 2014, EPA estimates that about 440 additional landfills currently are candidates for landfill-gas-to-energy projects, with the potential to produce enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.

Fact: The EPA estimates that using methane as a renewable, “green” energy instead of oil and gas has the annual environmental and energy benefits equivalent of:

  • The GHG emissions from more than 33 million passenger cars; or
  • Sequestering carbon from more than 22.1 million acres of pine or fir forests (that’s almost as big as a forest the size of West Virginia).

Fact: Several companies have achieved cost savings and long-term energy stability by switching to landfill-gas-to-energy to run their operations, including Honeywell, Dell, BMW, General Motors, Anheuser Busch, Mars and SC Johnson.

America’s solid waste industry currently also operates 86 waste-to-energy facilities.

Fact: The nation’s waste-to-energy facilities have the capacity to generate the energy equivalent of 2,790 megawatt hours of electricity, including an electric generating capacity of 2,572 megawatts and the equivalent of 218 megawatts based from steam, enough to power 1.6 million homes.