As part of our ongoing look at recycling around the world, we’ve looked a little harder America’s accumulating plastic waste. On average, Americans (all 325 million of us) throw away 35 billion plastic bottles a year. That’s 185 pounds of plastic per American, per year. Of the 254 million tons of waste generated in the United States each year, approximately 34% of it is recycled. Of the remaining 66% that isn’t recycled, 13% of this is plastic.


Seven states have unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation banning plastics with BPA (Bisphenol A). Some U.S. cities have fared better at barring (or heavily taxing) certain plastics including San Francisco, Portland, and coastal North Carolina. You might think that because the U.S. produces a grossly disproportionately amount of the world’s plastic waste, that we would also lead in recycling and reuse. Sadly, America’s plastic problem has less to do with how much of it we recycle and far more to do with the products we consume and how they are packaged in the first place.


Consider this:

  • Buying food in bulk allows you to bring your own glass/recycled containers.
  • Produce purchased at farmers markets is not only fresher, it has little to no packaging.
  • Natural cleaning products have no toxins, can be made at home, and stored in reusable glass/recycled containers.
  • Instead of buying three-one dollar water bottles a week for one year, invest in a $10 reusable stainless steel bottle. You’ll save $156 in a year, reduce your plastic waste, and have enough extra dollars left over to see a great concert.