The U.S. produces more than 236 million tons of trash — or about 1,640 pounds of waste per person — per year. That’s a lot of garbage. What exactly are we throwing away? The truth may surprise you. It turns out the poster child for recycling — the soda can — is barely a drop in the bucket, whereas Tree Enemy No. 1 (paper, duh) is being disposed of at a level that’s criminal. And check out what else we found while sorting through the rubble.

35% Paper

24% Organic waste (food scraps and yard trimmings)

3.6% Furniture and furnishings

3.1% Clothing and footwear

1.5% Disposable diapers

1.2% Consumer electronics

0.6% Beer and soft drink cans

0.4% Trash bags

This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2006. This story was added to in June 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2006.

Garbage in, garbage out
What are Americans throwing away?