Landfill Statistics in the U.S… Staggering

How much trash is in our landfills?

The first U.S. landfill reportedly showed up around 1937.  Our trash totals have grown to epic proportions in less than three generations, and the statistics are staggering. Considering our ancestors burned most of their garbage, or buried it in outlying rural areas, we sure have evolved…into a society full of waste.

A real-time, populated map from a study done by SaveonEnergy, shows where all the trash is located, state by state. Find all your local landfills, active and capped and the amount of garbage they currently hold.

Watch the U.S. map populate the total landfills from the early 1900’s to today, where a colorful array of green (closed landfills) and red (open landfills) dots fill the screen. Also, see who among us are the gassiest…check the METHANE GAS levels near you! Find the maps and stats at

Here are some landfill statistics:

*   Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage a year, and some reports show over 400 million tons.
*   Since 1960, America has tripled the amount of waste we generate!
*   Only about 1/10th of all solid garbage in the U.S. gets recycled.
*   EVERY DAY, the U.S. throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
*   Almost 1/3rd of waste generated in the U.S. is packaging—unnecessary.
*   Each year, Americans toss out enough disposable utensils and cups to circle the equator 300 times.
*   In the little town of Harrisburg, NC, the highest elevation is visible above the tallest trees from Main Street. In the state of Ohio, the highest point is Mount Rumpke, at over 1000 feet. Both of these “mountains” are not mountains at all, they are literally mounds of trash. The landfill, the dump. Have you seen (or smelled) yours lately?
*   The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, all of which create hazardous air emissions (methane) and eventually leach into the ground water.
*   In March, 2000 it was reported that 82% of surveyed landfill cells had leaks.
*   Since 2003, recycling has reduced the amount of trash thrown away in the US by 32% (approx. 79 million tons per year) which is good news; however, Americans are also consuming more and more, and packaging has increased on all products, so the net effect is minimal.

  • As of 1992, 14 billion pounds of trash were dumped into the ocean annually around the world.

  • There is an island of plastic garbage twice the size of Texas in the Pacific ocean, created from our excess waste. Sadly, there are actually several islands being formed from our trash, caught up in the rhythms of the ocean tide and herded together like plastic cattle.
  • Enough hazardous waste is generated in 12 months to fill the New Orleans Superdome 1,500 times over!


Sources from the study done at

About Verde Mom

Public Speaker, Nature Advocate, Lover of Pen and Paper, Author & Happy Hockey Mom
This entry was posted in Landfill statistics, recycling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Landfill Statistics in the U.S… Staggering

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  2. Glynis V. says:

    Actually, because I’m working on a series of articles on recycling for an Ohio newspaper, the highest point in Ohio is Campbell Hill at 1549 ft. in central Ohio. Mt. Rumpke is 1100 ft,, the highest point in Hamilton County.

    • Verde Mom says:

      Gynis, thank you for the clarification! The landfills are growing, and our statistics were done several years ago, so we expect many of them have gotten worse. Unfortunate, but true. Keep thinking outside the bin!


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  10. Nikita says:

    Hi! I was wondering if I could use these statistics for a zine I’m making for a zero waste non-profit I volunteer for! I’d write a link to your site on the bottom 🙂 Thank you!

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