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The Problem with Plastics - Statistics on Plastics in the U.S.


  • In 1999, the United States generated more than 10 million tons of plastics in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream as containers and packaging, nearly 6 million tons as non-durable goods, and more than 7 million tons as durable goods.
  • The total amount of plastics in MSW is 24.7 million tons, representing 10.7 percent of the total MSW generation in 2000.
  • The amount of plastics generation in MSW has increased from less than 1 percent (or 400,000 tons) in 1960 to 10.7 percent (24.7 million tons) in 2000.
  • Overall recovery of plastics for recycleing was only 4.7 percent in 1994 nationwide, 5.2 percent in 1997, and is projected 11.2 percent by 2005.
  • Plastics are non-biodegradable and contribute heavily to environmental litter.
  • With increased plastics recycling, fewer natural resources need to be extracted to create new plastic, such as oil.
  • Plastics production accounts for 4 percent of U.S. energy consumption.


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Last Updated: 03 Dec 2013
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