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Stats2 1Garbage Statistics and Studies

Over the past decade, recycling efforts have increased significantly, although just how much it has increased in the state of Indiana is not certain because our state does not require data reporting for recycling. We do know that as recycling efforts increase, unfortunately so, too, do our levels of waste generation! As the graph below indicates, total waste generated in the state has increased from just over 10 million tons in 1993 to over 15 million tons in 2001!

But thanks to a recent study completed by Purdue University – Calumet students and faculty, we now know how much of several different types of waste are currently being landfilled in Indiana, and where our best opportunities for increasing recycling and waste reduction lie.

The 2012 report by PUC Professor Harvey Abramowitz shared the results of his students’ excavations at four landfills across the state. Their study was commissioned by the Indiana Recycling Market Development Board to develop a reliable statewide characterization of municipal solid waste (MSW) received for disposal at Indiana MSW facilities, compare Indiana findings to other state and national results, and estimate the types and quantities of potentially recoverable and compostable materials in the Indiana MSW stream.

The overall MSW composition from Indiana origins for disposal at Indiana landfills and incinerator is estimated as follows:


Comparing those results to similar studies done in other states, the report found that Indiana puts a higher than average amount of paper and plastics into its landfills, even though they are mostly recyclable materials. However, the amount of glass and metals landfilled in Indiana is lower than average, showing recycling at work!

The study found that the greatest opportunities for increased source reduction and recycling in Indiana’s MSW stream are uncoated corrugated cardboard (634,150 tons, making up 10.6 percent of waste in landfills), mixed recyclable paper (73,954 tons, 1.2 percent), and film/wrap/plastic bags (306,032 tons, 5.1 percent). Food waste (591,557 tons, 9.9 percent), and compostable paper (269,540 tons, 4.5 percent) also have source reduction and recycling opportunities through composting.

Here is a copy of the full report:

National Trends

How much waste do you produce each day? The average amount of waste generated per person each day in the United States was 4.4 pounds in 2010 – equivalent to the weight of 10 full boxes of macaroni and cheese or a dozen fast food quarter-pound hamburgers. In total, we produced nearly 250 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2010 alone, of which Indiana contributed some 8 million tons. Sounds like a lot? Well, it is. And like Indiana state numbers, the national numbers have been steadily growing for the past several decades.


As the graph clearly indicates, solid waste generation has nearly tripled in the United States in the past 50 years, increasing from 88.1 million tons to 249.9 million tons. What's the cause of this upward trend? Is it just a result of increased population? Not quite. As the yellow line indicates, our per capita waste generation has also increased, from 2.7 lbs/person/day to 4.43 lbs/person/day.

As alarming as these trends may be, the more interesting question is how have recycling trends changed during this same time period?


The graph above indicates that recycling rates have dramatically increased since 1960. While no concrete data on recycling rates exists in Indiana (our state does not require data reporting for recycling), the Indiana Recycling Coalition estimates indicate that at best Hoosiers recycle approximately 30% of our waste. That’s a little less than the 34% recycled by the nation at large.

At both the state and national levels, however, the problem is much the same: We may be recycling a higher percentage of the waste we produce, but we're sending more and more waste to landfills each year.

Yard & Food Waste