16 Composting Statistics: Are We Doing Enough? [Infographic]

composting

For anyone who’s ever thought about ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment, one common question is probably, “How big of an impact can we really have by doing something as seemingly insignificant as composting?”

Here are 16 eye-popping composting statistics to show us exactly that.

16 incredible statistics on composting that show us the huge opportunity we have

1. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 63.1 million tons of food waste was generated in the commercial, institutional, and residential sectors in 2018. (Source: The EPA).

2. From 1960 up to 2018, here’s a comparison of the thousands of tons of food generated, landfilled, and composted (Source: The EPA):

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2005

2010

2015

2017

2018

Food generated

12,200

12,800

13,000

23,860

30,700

32,930

35,740

39,730

40,670

63,130

Food landfilled

12,200

12,750

12,740

19,800

24,200

26,370

28,620

30,250

30,630

35,280

Food composted

0

0

0

0

680

690

970

2,100

2,570

2,590

3. In the United States, 30 to 40% percent of all available food goes uneaten. (Source: The EPA)

4. In 2018, 50% of municipal solid waste (MSW) went to landfills. 23.6% was recycled, and only 8.5% was composted. (Source: The EPA)

🌱 Pro-tip: What is “MSW?” MSW, or municipal solid waste, is essentially what we throw away. These items include more than just compostable things—MSW can include packaging, food, furniture, tires, yard trimmings, electronics, and appliances. (No industrial or hazardous waste though!)

5. In 2018, the average person generated 4.91 pounds of solid waste a day. (Source: The EPA)

6. Out of the 292.4 million tons of MSW that was created in 2018, this was the breakdown of the top four categories of products (Source: The EPA):

  • 23.1% paper and paperboard
  • 21.6% food
  • 12.2% plastics
  • 12.1% yard trimmings

The good news? These can be recycled or composted! (Are you recycling the plastic jugs your laundry detergent comes in?)

🌱 Pro-tip: Ever wonder if you can compost effectively while living in an apartment without a yard? Learn more about how to do it here.

7. But out of the 146.2 million tons of MSW that was dumped in landfills… this was the breakdown (Source: The EPA):

  • 24.1% food
  • 18.5% plastics
  • 11.8% paper and paperboard
  • 11.1% leather, rubber, and textiles
  • 9.5% metals
  • 8.3% wood
  • 7.2% yard trimmings

8. In 2018, food was composted at an abysmal rate of 4.1%. (Source: The EPA) This is significant because it shows just how big of an opportunity we’re missing—and it’s so easy to fix. There are so many relatively simple household composting solutions like bins and tumblers, that are readily available, that can help really boost this number.

9. Yard trimmings, on the other hand were composted the most out of all the product categories at 63%. (Source: The EPA)

10. Food had the third highest landfill rate of 55.9%, meaning 55.9% of uneaten food went to landfills. (Source: The EPA)

11. In 2018, roughly 94 million tons of MSW in the US were recycled and composted, which saved over 193 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMT CO2E). This is comparable to the emissions that we’d reduce from taking almost 42 million cars off the road for a whole year. (Source: The EPA)

12. One of the big benefits of composting? It can help prevent topsoil erosion by allowing the soil to absorb more water during heavy rainfalls and by fostering robust plant growth. (Source: Compost Utilization for Erosion Control, Mark Risse and Britt Faucette, University of Georgia)

13. A study found that the application of compost helped to reduce soil loss by 86%. (Source: Compost Utilization for Erosion Control, Mark Risse and Britt Faucette, University of Georgia)

14. When organic waste gets dumped in landfills, it actually doesn’t decompose. Instead, when it breaks down, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s about 56 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. (Source: Global Warming Potentials, The United Nations)

So, when we don’t compost our organic waste, we’re doing double the damage because not only do we miss out on the benefit of composting, it also does extra damage to the environment.

15. In 2015, Americans landfilled or incinerated 50+ million tons of compostable waste. (Source: The EPA)

That’s enough to fill a line of fully-loaded 18-wheelers that stretches from New York City to Los Angeles 10 times over. (Source: US PIRG)

16. If we’d composted all the food waste and yard trimmings that went to landfills in 2015, we would’ve netted out at negative emissions—14.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, to be exact. That’s comparable to taking over 3 million cars off the road for a year. (Source: US PIRG)

composting statistics infographic

 

Feel free to use this infographic, just please link back here to credit me. 🙂

16 Composting Statistics: Are We Doing Enough? [Infographic]

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