How Many People Recycle? Stats to Make You Wonder

Nowadays, it might seem that everybody is recycling. But how true is it? Which country recycles the most, and how much waste do we all produce? The answers you’re looking for are here. 

So, let’s start.

How Many People Recycle?

According to stats for 2018 and 2019, worldwide recycling rates go from 64.8% in European countries to only 4% in African countries. However, the number of people recycling depends on each country, city, and region, so there are no absolute numbers.

In comparison, the recycling rate during the same period in the US is 32%, according to data from the EPA. 

(UN Environment Programme, 2018, Eurostat, 2019, EPA)

More Interesting Recycling Statistics

Research has found that, besides helping us preserve our planet, recycling can also benefit us in other ways. For example, people that take recycling seriously make better spending decisions.

Since recycling is so important, we’ve prepared statistics showing you the demographics of recyclers and details about recycling in different countries around the world. 

In 2018, only 32.1% of the yearly produced waste was recycled or composted in the US. 

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2018)

This is equal to around 94 million tons of municipal waste. But, what’s surprising is that the recycling numbers are actually falling. In 2015, the US recycling rate was 34.7%.

The numbers are exceptionally low if we take into consideration that 75% of American waste can be recycled.

According to 2019 stats, 72% of Slovenian municipal waste is recycled — the highest percentage in the world.

(Statista, 2019)

Other countries with the highest recycling rates were primarily European. Canada, with 29%, and America, with 34%, were much lower on the list. 

As for Asian countries, South Korea and Japan were on the list with 65% and 20% (for 2018), respectively. 

A study has found that one of the main reasons for the low recycling rate is the lack of programs or services that would enable people to do so

Maine is the state with the highest recycling rate of 74%.

(Ball, 2021)

Maine is the absolute leader in all recycling fields. For example, it recycles 285 lb of waste per capita, 77% of all the cardboard, and 78% of PET bottles. 

On the other hand, Alaska is the state with the lowest recycling rate at just 16%. It recycles only 24% of the cardboard and 1% of PET bottles.

An average American produces 1,704.17 lb of waste a year.

(Maplecroft, 2019)

This is three times more than the global average. So, while the US makes only 4% of the world population, it creates 12% of the global waste.

With 2020 statistics showing that the great garbage patch weighs 88,000 tons, scientists are calling for everybody, especially Americans, to lower their waste production.

The age group between 18 and 34 recycles the most.

(Statista, 2019)

An American survey has found that 92% of respondents recycle among this group, while the 65+ age group recycles the least — 68%.

The numbers should be interpreted with caution, though, since they come from a smaller participant survey.

Women are more likely to recycle than men.

(Mintel, 2018)

A British study has found that 77% of women are likely to recycle, while that is true for 67% of men. 

One of the potential reasons mentioned is that men feel like caring about the environment makes them appear less masculine.

Final Thoughts

Everybody knows that recycling helps get the world rid of the extra waste. But, sadly, based on all these stats, we can see we’re still far away from having 0% waste and at least 75% recycling. 


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