Among other things, we Americans are really good at producing trash. We collectively produce a third of the world’s garbage. 4.5 pounds of garbage, per person, per day. Economists find the amount of garbage we produce to be one of the best indicators of our economic “health.” More garbage production = a healthier economy. Beautiful. What do you think, Charlie?
But there is better news. While our per-person trash production is up roughly one pound per day since 1980, the percentage of that waste that gets recycled instead of dumped in the pile behind Charlie has climbed from roughly 10% in 1980 to roughly 35% today. If you do the math, you will realize that the increase in recycling has not reduced our waste, but only offset the increase. But still...
In the areas I haul, curbside recycling is paid for by the municipality. Yet my observation is that more than half of what we haul to the dump (i.e. to be burned or sent to landfill) is still recyclable. Here's a favorite image. I don't know how many of these I saw in the trash. Guides to recycling, printed on recycled and recyclable paper, sent out by the recycling company. What do you do with it? Why, throw it in the trash, of course!
(Statistics from the U.S. EPA. http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/index.htm )