Americans Dispose of How Much Municipal Solid Waste Each Year?

How Much Waste Does the US Produce?

Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste

Municipal Solid Waste is the trash or garbage that consists of unwanted items which we throw away. There are different kinds of solid waste like household trash, household hazardous waste, bulk trash etc, and each one of them needs a separate method for disposal.

The US citizens dispose of this waste through different methods. But Americans dispose of how much Municipal Solid Waste each year?

The answer to this question will surprise you! Let’s have a look at what kinds of waste are disposed of the most by Americans, what the amount of yearly solid waste disposed of by US citizens is, and what are the ways we can reduce waste disposal, and hence environmental pollution in this article.

How Much Waste Does the US Produce?

Did you know that as Americans, we make a whole bunch of trash? Every year, the U.S. makes a total of 268 million tons of trash! That’s like throwing away a large amount of junk every day.

The average person here makes about 4.5 pounds of garbage every single day. Compare that to the global average of just 1.6 pounds – we’re definitely not disposing of our trash well!

Our trash is causing some big problems. Landfills, the places where we dump our garbage, are filling up fast. And guess what? We need to figure out how to deal with all our waste right here at home.

In 2018:

  • We tossed out a mind-boggling 292 million tons of trash.
  • Each person in the U.S. threw away about 1,800 pounds of stuff. That’s like having a small car made of trash!
  • Good news: Almost 94 million tons were recycled and composted. That’s a 32.1 percent recycling rate – not too shabby!
  • Some food waste got special treatment too, like becoming animal feed or turning into energy.

Our trash doesn’t just disappear. It ends up in landfills, gets burned, or worse, messes up our beautiful environment. Picture our parks and beaches filled with junk – not so pretty, right? Plus, it can hurt the animals that live there.

So, let’s all do our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Small steps can make a big difference! Be sure that you don’t miss the trash day.

What does Municipal Solid Waste Consist of?

Do you ever wonder what items constitute this much solid waste in the US? Here is the list of the items which are mostly thrown into trash carts by the American citizens.

  • An amount 30.63 million tons of food end up in landfills annually, constituting the largest portion of our waste. 
  • Plastics, comprising 18 percent of the landfill, contribute significantly to pollution. We should find ways to recycle these plastics instead of throwing them away.
  • 8.65 million tons of yard trimmings constitute the yearly garbage in the USA.
  • Americans dispose of 6.87 million tons of glass every year!
  • You won’t believe it, but the amount of leather and rubber disposed of by the residents every year is 4.95 million tons.
  • 18.35 million tons of paper and paperboard are thrown away annually.

Effect of Dumping Waste on Environment

Following are the effects of improper disposal of waste on the environment.

Increased Risk of Natural Disasters

1. Fire Hazard

Dumped garbage can mix and produce flammable gasses, raising the risk of spontaneous fires. Unchecked, these fires can escalate, turning into destructive forest fires that harm our surroundings.

2. Flooding Dangers:

Illegal dump sites can disrupt natural water pathways, causing floods. Erosion, accelerated by dumped trash, further contributes to the risk of floods, impacting both the environment and our neighborhoods.

Threats to Human Health

1. Breeding Ground for Diseases:

Dumped waste attracts insects and animals carrying diseases like dengue fever and malaria. The presence of these pests poses a direct threat to human health, increasing the risk of illnesses.

2. Mental Health Impact:

Living near dump sites can affect mental well-being. The perception of an area as ‘dirty’ due to illegal dumping can make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe, influencing mental health negatively.

Decrease in Property Values

Visual Impact:

Illegal dumping sends a negative visual message, impacting urban and residential areas. Bad smells and visible trash can discourage potential buyers, leading to a decrease in property values and overall market decline.

Environmental Health Concerns

1. Disease Spread:

Unprocessed waste becomes a source for diseases that affect animals, plants, and humans alike. Proper waste disposal is crucial to prevent the spread of these diseases.

2. Impact on Plants:

Contaminants in the air and water harm plants, making even uncontaminated soil toxic for them. Improper waste disposal poses a threat to plant life, affecting ecosystems.

3. Animal and Marine Issues:

Land and sea animals suffer due to waste. From sea turtles ingesting plastic to animals encountering hazardous materials, improper waste disposal contributes to species extinction and ecosystem damage.

4. Loss of Habitats and Biodiversity:

Improper waste disposal contributes to global climate change, damaging habitats and reducing biodiversity. This leads to species extinction, making it harder for nature to adapt to environmental changes.

See the latest trash schedules on to stay updated!

Challenges in Solid Waste Management

Following are the challenges faced by the Solid Waste Management department in our country.

Lack of Teamwork

Collecting trash isn’t a one-person work. It needs everyone to join in. But if it’s a problem to use street bins, people might just dump their waste on the side. Let’s make bins user-friendly and encourage everyone to play their part in keeping our neighborhoods clean.

Not Enough Recycling in the Country

Recycling is like magic for the environment and our pockets, but it’s not happening enough. In some places, the methods used in wealthier countries are too expensive. We should focus on simple ways that suit our needs and involve local workers who can sort things out easily.

Lack of Proper Awareness

Ever wonder why some people just throw their trash wherever they want? It turns out, there’s a lack of awareness and education. We should spread the word on proper waste disposal. When people know better, they tend to do better.

Less Funds for the Department

One big issue is not having enough cash to keep things running smoothly. Without sufficient funds, we might struggle to pay for fixing things up, fuel for trucks, or even worker salaries. This money trouble also makes it hard to make waste management easier.

How Much is the Total Waste in a Year?

Ever wonder about the amount of trash we create every day? Brace yourselves for some eye-opening facts! Comparing our trash habits with Europe, it turns out that Americans are champions in waste creation, producing around 1,642 pounds of trash per person annually. In contrast, our European counterparts clock in at a lighter 1,073 pounds.

Annually, humans collectively dump 2.12 billion tons of waste. A surprising fact is, 99 percent of the things we buy end up in the trash within just six months!

Methods to Reduce Solid Waste

Since the solid waste disposal is increasing to a great extent, we need to look for ways which can lower the amount of solid waste created. Following are some methods to reduce solid waste.

  • In some places, you can toss plastic, glass, cardboard, and paper into one bin. Smart waste facilities then sort it out, helping us recycle more without breaking the bank.
  • Composting is an easy way to reduce waste. Yard trimmings, making up 6.2% of landfills, can decompose naturally. 
  • Give clothes to those in need, save leftovers, and donate the items you don’t want to use anymore. Reusing items not only saves money but also conserves resources.
  • Switching to natural cleaning agents like vinegar and baking soda can help solve our problems. Not only are they kind to the environment, but they also reduce waste from numerous cleaning product containers.

Read these guides to dispose of bulk trash:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much municipal solid waste is produced in the US each year?

Almost five years ago, the total municipal solid waste produced in America was approximately 292.4 million tons.

How is most municipal solid waste in the US presently disposed of?

The municipal solid waste is mostly disposed of by throwing the trash and even a lot of recyclables and compostable objects into the landfill. Almost half of the trash disposed of in the US is through the landfills.

Million tons of trash!

Americans dispose of a large amount of waste each year, and if it continues this way, the country is going to be filled with trash soon. Not only this, most of the trash is disposed of by throwing into the landfills.

This way, the garbage decomposes at a very slow rate and it releases harmful chemicals into the environment. The release of garbage into the landfills, hence, is a major contributor to environmental pollution.

We can try to lessen the waste disposal by recycling and composting more, and donating stuff we don’t need, instead of throwing it away.