The Trash One Person Produces in One Year

How much trash does America produce? We’ve looked at some gross data to calculate what one person produces in garbage per year by type of waste. See how many water bottles are tossed out by your average Joe, how many newspapers, how many cardboard boxes, and how much of other kinds of waste. See how much is thrown out and consider how we in America can cut back on waste!

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The Trash One Person Produces in One Year Transcript

We calculated the data by looking at the mass data on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, dividing by the nation’s population to get an average person’s typical waste in one year.

Type of Materials Per person (pounds in one year on average)
Newspaper 53.38
Books 5.48
Magazines 9.36
Office Papers 30.25
Mail 23.06
Commercial Printing 16.94
Tissue Paper and Paper Towels 22.36
Paper Plates and Cups 8.22
Other Non-Packaging Paper 25.54
Corrugated Boxes 187.77
Aseptic Cartons 3.50
Folding Cartons 34.97
Other Paperboard Packaging 0.45
Bags and Sacks 6.11
Other Paper Packaging 9.30
Durable Goods (Glass) 13.95
Beer and Soft Drink Bottles 35.22
Wine and Liquor Bottles 11.78
Other Bottles and Jars 12.74
Ferrous Metal Durable Goods 92.80
Aluminum Goods (Durable and Non-Durable) 10.89
Lead Durable Goods 9.04
Other Nonferrous Metal Durable Goods 3.69
Steel Cans 11.78
Other Steel Packaging 2.42
Aluminum Beer and Soda Cans 8.28
Other Aluminum Cans 0.76
Aluminum Foil 2.87
Durable Plastics 72.99
Plastic Plates and Cups 6.75
Trash Bags 6.50
Other Nondurable Plastics 28.22
Bottles and Jars (PET) 17.77
Natural Bottles (HDPE) 4.97
Plastic HDPE Container 8.98
Plastic PVC Containers 0.25
Plastic LDPE/LLDPE Containers 0.25
Plastic PP Containers 1.78
Plastic PS Containers 0.51
Bags, sacks, and wraps 24.27
Other plastic packaging 28.98
Rubber Tire 19.24
Other Rubber 22.29
Clothing and Footwear 4.90
Other Non-Durable Leather 1.53
Food Waste 220.96
Yard Trimmings 91.53
Wood 854.20
Miscellaneous Waste 2.48


How Much Trash Does the Average American Produce per Year?

If you divide total trash by the population, the average American would produce about 2,072 pounds of trash per year total.

How much garbage does America produce? Collectively, out of the 254 million tons of trash Americans can produce in one year, we recycle about 34.3 percent of it. For our average individual, 710.6 pounds are recycled and 1,361.4 pounds of trash are tossed out every year — about the weight of a grizzly bear.

How much trash does the average American produce a day? According to the EPA, the average American person will produce about 5.91 pounds of trash, with about 1.51 pounds being recycled; 4.40 pounds is the rough average daily waste per person. That’s a lot!

But that’s just a brief look at the waste problems in America without examining the details. What types of trash are we piling up, and is this waste having a long-term negative impact on the planet?

The average American produces the following pounds of trash every year:

  • 38 pounds of newspapers
  • 48 pounds of books
  • 25 pounds of office papers
  • 22 pounds of paper plates or cups
  • 28 pounds of aluminum beer and soda cans
  • 77 pounds of plastic bottles and jars
  • 90 pounds of tossed-out clothes and shoes
  • 77 pounds of cardboard boxes

And of course, there’s much more. For instance, you might wonder how many pounds of food does the average American waste. The answer is upsetting: Each year, each person tosses out roughly 220.96 pounds of food waste, which is especially tragic since so many children are going hungry in the United States.

How Much Garbage Do Humans Make Every Year?

On a worldwide scale, we produce 2.6 trillion pounds of trash per year. OECD (Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development) countries collectively produce 44% of the world’s garbage.

How much trash is produced each year by the U.S. compared to other countries? No country produces quite as much waste as America, but Russian isn’t far behind. Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Germany are all big wasters as well. Waste management is becoming more and more of an international problem, which may require international involvement in the long run.

How much waste is produced each year after recycling? It’s hard to say, but some have estimated that as much as 91 percent of plastics aren’t recycled, which is a problem since many forms of plastic take between ten years and a few hundred years to degrade property in sunlight, with many plastics not degrading because they’re hidden in landfills.

There are many ways to lessen the flow of trash worldwide and many ways we can all take a personal responsibility in reducing our own trash. If we all work hard to use reusable items and reduce trash, the problem won’t be as insurmountable as it seems.