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Recycling Facts

Many of the recycling facts below, especially statistics related to specific materials and recycling rates, were pulled from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2013 Facts and Figures report.

Baltimore County

  • Baltimore County’s recycling and waste prevention program serves a population of approximately 823,000 spread out over an area of 640 square miles.
  • Baltimore County’s first recycling drop-off center opened in June 1990. Between 1993 and 1995, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management gradually implemented its “One and One” collection program for the County. “One and One” refers to once a week trash, once a week recycling collection.
  • In 20 years (from July 1995 through June 2015) Baltimore County collected 2.5 billion pounds of recyclables from County residents in its "curbside" recycling program.
  • The County introduced single stream recycling collection (all recyclables placed in the same container) to all individual homes in February of 2010. In October of 2010, all apartments and condominiums were brought on to the single stream program.
  • As of June 2015, a total of 332,000 single family homes, town homes, apartments and condominiums in Baltimore County are serviced on a weekly basis by 44 private haulers.
  • In September 2006, Baltimore County established a permanent e-cycling site at the Central Acceptance Facility (CAF) in Cockeysville. In April 2009, Baltimore County expanded its e-cycling program to include drop off locations at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility (ESL) in White Marsh and the Western Acceptance Facility (WAF) in Halethorpe.

United States

  • In 2013, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions generated about 254 million tons of "waste" and recycled or composted 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34 percent recycling rate.
  • In 2013, 34 percent of solid waste in the United States was recovered and recycled or composted, 13 percent was burned at combustion facilities and the remaining 53 percent was disposed of in landfills.
  • Recycling and composting 87 million tons of solid waste in 2013 saved almost 1.1 quadrillion BTUs of energy—that's the same amount of energy consumed by a total of 9.9 million U.S. households in a year.
  • The 87 million tons of recycled and composted solid waste in 2013 provided a benefit of more than 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced. This is comparable to removing the emissions of over 39 million passenger vehicles from the road.
  • While solid waste generation has increased from 3.7 to 4.4 pounds per person per day between 1980 and 2013, the recycling rate has also increased—from less than 10 percent in 1980 to more than 34 percent in 2013.
  • Over 2.4 million households in the U.S. received food waste composting collection in 2012.

Metal (Steel and Aluminum)

  • Aluminum beverage containers were recovered at a rate of 55 percent of generation (0.7 million tons) in 2013. 39 percent of all aluminum containers and packaging was recovered for recycling in 2013.
  • By recycling almost eight million tons of metals in 2013 (including aluminum, steel and mixed metals), greenhouse gas emissions totaling close to 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent were eliminated. This is equivalent to removing more than 4.5 million cars from the road for one year.
  • Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy cost of processing new aluminum. This is because the temperature necessary for melting recycled aluminum is 600 degrees Celsius, while a temperature of 900 degrees Celsius is required to extract mined aluminum from its ore.
  • An aluminum beverage container can be recycled and back on the shelf as a new product in as few as 60 days.
  • With a 99 percent recycling rate in 2013, lead-acid batteries continue to be one of the most recovered products.


  • In 2013, newspapers were recycled at a rate of 67 percent. In the same year, corrugated cardboard boxes were recycled at a rate of over 88 percent.
  • In 2013, 43 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in the United States. This provided a reduction of approximately 149 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, which is comparable to removing over 31 million passenger vehicles from the road for a year.
  • Making one ton of office paper from 100 percent recycled content saves approximately 24 trees.


  • In 2013, the U.S. recycling rate was 31 percent for PET plastic bottles and 28 percent for HDPE bottles.
  • Plastics are a rapidly growing segment of the solid waste stream. The largest category of plastics consists of containers and packaging (such as soft drink bottles, lids and shampoo bottles), but plastics are also found in durable (appliances and furniture) and non-durable goods (diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, and medical devices).
  • Recycling a ton of plastic bottles saves about 3.8 barrels of oil.
  • Plastics made up less than one percent of the solid waste stream by weight in 1960. As of 2013, plastics make up more than 12 percent of "waste" generated in the United States. Fortunately, many plastic items are recyclable.
Revised February 3, 2020         
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