Considering the EPA hasn’t released an updated report on the state of recycling and waste since 2018, it can be difficult to get an idea of how the recycling industry has changed in the past few years. Here are the most recent statistics on plastic, paper, aluminum, glass, electronic and food recycling for 2022.

Top Recycling Statistics of 2022

The widely circulated statistic that 9% of plastic waste is recycled in the U.S. has now been deemed an overestimate.1 Here are some stats that show how recycling has changed in recent years:

  1. Of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2021, only 5% to 6% — or about two million tons — was recycled.1
  2. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 5.7% overall decrease in plastics recovered for recycling in the U.S. That is the equivalent of 290 million pounds.2
  3. Approximately 36% of all plastic produced is used to create packaging, 85% of which ends up in landfills.3
  4. About 98% of single-use plastic products are made from fossil fuels.3
  5. Globally, we produce about 400 million tons of plastic waste yearly.3
  6. Until recently, the U.S. outsourced a significant portion of its plastic, but import bans in countries like China and Turkey have fueled a decline in recycling.1

Plastic Recycling Facts and Statistics

Plastic recycling has long posed challenges. Unlike glass and metal, plastic cannot be repeatedly recycled without quickly degrading in quality.

  1. The total bottle recycling rate for 2020 was 27.2%, down from 28.7% in 2019.2
  2. Every hour, 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away in the U.S.4
  3. Between 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently in our oceans.3
  4. Plastic bottles take upwards of 450 years to degrade.5
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Author: Faith Wakefield, EcoWatch
Image: Nick Fewings on Unsplash
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