Environment

FACTS
  • 50 percent of the plastic used in the U.S. is used just once then thrown away.
  • There are over five trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 tons, floating in our oceans. That’s over 700 pieces of plastic per person.
  • Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of microplastic in one square kilometer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—that’s about 1.9 million bits per square mile. Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups.
  • On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of lunch waste per school year (40,000 pounds of lunch waste per middle school).
  • Packaging accounts for nearly 32 percent of all household waste in the U.S.
  • Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the U.S.
  • Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day, which could fill over 127 school buses every day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year.
  • About 25 billion single-use coffee cups end up in landfills every year. If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year.
  • Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags. Worldwide more than one million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of lunch waste per school year (18,760 pounds of lunch waste per elementary school).
  • A waste-free lunch saves on average $216 per child per year (versus a disposable lunch).
  • The North Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest of the five gyres, is twice the size of Texas and contains about 3.5 million tons of trash
  • Packaging accounts for nearly 32 percent of all household waste in the U.S.
  • Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the U.S.
  • Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Placed end to end, the number of disposable straws used in the U.S. in the past 4 days could reach the moon.
  • About 23 billion coated paper or Styrofoam coffee cups end up in landfills every year. Placed end to end, they could circle the earth 68 times.
  • Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags. The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, that's more than 4 bags a day.

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Our contributing intern, Rosanna Zywietz, studied Environmental Management in Scotland, has worked in waste management and has helped companies reduce their environmental impact. She has contributed several one-page fact sheets on the origins of waste and solutions to our staggering waste problem: America's Trash, Manufacturing and the Environment, The Waste Hierarchy.


BOOKS
  • Confessions of a Radical Industrialist
    by Ray Anderson

  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
    by Michael Braungart and William McDonough

  • The Ecology of Commerce
    by Paul Hawken

  • Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet
    by Sloan Barnett

  • It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living
    by Crissy Trask

  • Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability
    by Michael K Stone

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