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We’ve Had it Up to Here.

A recent report by the Asian Development Bank predicts that garbage output by Asian cities will more than double by 2025–from 760 thousand tons to 1.8 million tons per day. That amount of garbage would rapidly swamp the municipal governments charged with taking care of trash disposal.

Here in the U.S., New York and Maryland lead the nation in trash export, although they produce a less than average amount of trash per capita. On the other hand, Pennsylvania and Michigan import (by far) the most.

Let’s take a look at where all this trash is coming from…


The U.S. produces 1.3 tons of garbage per capita per year, or 7.12 pounds per day. These figures include everything from take-out containers to lawn clippings to construction debris (estimates are closer to 4.3 pounds per person, if we exclude industrial and construction waste).

Compare this to London, which produces just 2.6 pounds per person, per day, or Baghdad, just under one pound. As a country, we produce by far the most garbage per capita in the world.

As this graph shows, we aren’t very good at closing the loop, either:


On average, 64.1% of our municipal waste ends up in a landfill. Almost half of this waste is compostable organic material. In general, about 75% of our garbage is recyclable using current technology, but only about 25% is.

For detailed information about our nation’s trash habits, check out the State of Garbage 2006 report.