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.