Recycling can often be a puzzling subject for many businesses. Are we doing our bit? Do the recycling statistics indicate that we’re making a significant impact? With data showing the recycling rate (including composting) in America slipped to 32.1% in 2018 from 34.7% in 2015, there’s plenty of space for us to step up our game.

This blog gives you an insightful tour of business recycling facts and figures, providing a detailed picture of trends, challenges, and opportunities in this waste management arena. So, let’s delve into this journey towards becoming greener companies.

What is the Importance of Business Recycling Statistics?

Before we break down business recycling statistics, let’s explore why these statistics are important. Business recycling statistics are essential for several reasons:

1. Informed Decision Making

Statistics provide businesses with data-driven insights into their waste management practices. By understanding the volumes and types of recycled materials, companies can make more informed decisions about resource allocation, operational improvements, and investments in recycling infrastructure.

2. Performance Tracking and Improvement

Recycling statistics also allow businesses to track their performance over time. This data can be used to set goals, measure progress, and identify areas for improvement in waste management and sustainability practices.

business recycling statistics

3. Regulatory Compliance and Reporting

Many regions have regulations requiring businesses to report their recycling efforts. Accurate statistics help ensure compliance with these regulations and assist in reporting for environmental certifications or sustainability audits.

4. Environmental Impact Assessment

Recycling statistics help businesses assess their environmental impact. By understanding how much waste they divert from landfills and how much they recycle, companies can gauge their contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving natural resources, and minimising environmental pollution.

5. Cost-Benefit Analysis

Statistics enable businesses to perform cost-benefit analyses of their recycling programs. Companies can evaluate the financial impact of their recycling efforts by comparing the costs of recycling processes against the savings from reduced waste disposal and potential revenue from selling recyclables.

6. Stakeholder Communication and Engagement

Recycling statistics are also valuable for communicating with stakeholders, including customers, investors, and employees. Businesses can use this data to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, enhancing their reputation and potentially attracting customers and investors who value environmental responsibility.

7. Market Trends and Benchmarking

Recycling statistics allow businesses to understand broader market trends and benchmark their performance against industry standards or competitors. This can be crucial for maintaining competitive advantages and identifying best practices in waste management and sustainability.

8. Resource Management Optimisation

Businesses can optimise their resource management by analysing recycling statistics. This can lead to more efficient use of materials, reduced waste production, and identified opportunities for reusing and recycling materials within their operations.

9. Policy and Strategy Development

Accurate recycling data also aids in developing effective waste management policies and strategies. Businesses can use this information to align their operational practices with sustainability goals and regulatory requirements.

10. Innovation and New Opportunities

Recycling statistics can reveal opportunities for innovation in product design, packaging, and supply chain management. Understanding the types and quantities of generated waste can inspire new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials.

Trends in Recycling

Recycling statistics have steadily increased, with an average nationwide recycling rate of 34.7% in 2018, but what are the specific trends that have contributed to this increase? Let’s dive deeper into the historical and recent recycling trends.

Historical Trends in Recycling Statistics

Recycling statistics have grown over time. Back in 1960, only 6% of trash was recycled, which is not much. When jumping forward to 2017, we see a significant change. The recycling rate had shot up to more than 35%.

This growth did not happen overnight. Efforts were made year after year to make recycling a crucial part of waste management. As early as 2012, recycled waste helped keep about 168 tons from harming the earth.

Last year, in 2022, close to 94 million tons of city waste or municipal solid waste (MSW) were put aside for recycling and composting. This gave us a strong recycling rate of roughly one-third or about 32%.

In light of the above, we learn that our efforts are working—bit by bit—showing us that trends in recycling are moving the right way.

Recycling Trends 2015-2018

From 2015 to 2018, recycling went through ups and downs. The rate of PET bottles and jars finding new life peaked in 2018. About three out of every ten such items got recycled.

This is only part of the picture. Different materials showed different stories across America. Some types were being thrown away more while other types got reused more often.

For example, some cities in growing countries had plastic recycling rates touching between 20 and 40%. On the other hand, places like New Hampshire shared only a little about their recycling habits during these years.

Global Recycling Statistics

Global recycling statistics provide valuable insights into the impact of waste management practices worldwide. From global plastic recycling rates to the market size of waste recycling services, let’s explore how businesses can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Recycling Statistics Worldwide

Recycling rates have always been critical for businesses, providing valuable insights into waste management strategies and potential revenue streams. As a crucial part of our environmental footprint, recycling rates underline the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling materials to lessen the burden on earth’s resources.

Recycling statistics worldwide are low, with the average global recycling statistics currently at 19%. This means that only a small percentage of waste is being recycled globally. For textiles, the recycling rate is even lower, around 15%. This indicates that there is a significant opportunity for improvement in waste management and recycling practices around the world.

As business owners and marketers, it’s essential to be aware of these low recycling statistics worldwide. By understanding the current state of global recycling, we can make more informed decisions about our waste management practices to contribute to environmental conservation and sustainability efforts. Additionally, by increasing recycling rates and promoting responsible waste disposal within organisations, we can help drive positive change on a larger scale.

Global Waste Recycling Services Market Size

The global waste recycling services market was valued at $55.1 billion in 2020, and it’s estimated to reach around $88.01 billion by 2030. The market is expected to grow from $61.76 billion in 2022 to $59.07 billion in 2023. In 2021, the waste recycling services market size was valued at $56.15 billion, projected to reach $92,412.02 million by 2028.

Plastic Recycling Statistics

Globally, we need to do better with plastic recycling. In 2019, only 9% of plastic waste was recycled. This is less than one in ten pieces. There was a small victory in 2018 when the rate hit 32.1%, but that still needs to be higher.

Even though about a fifth of global plastic waste was recycled in 2015, today, less than ten pieces out of every hundred get this chance to live again as something else. These numbers show how much work there is left to do if you look at them and feel like you must act; It’s never too late for us to make a change.

Current State of Recycling in the US

In the US, recycling rates have steadily increased, with 45% of household waste recycled in 2019. Let’s delve into a brief analysis of recycling rates in the US.

YearRecycling Rate in the USPer Capita Recycling RateMSW Recycling Rate

This table illustrates the decline in the overall recycling rate from 34.7% in 2015 to 32.1% in 2018. The per capita recycling rate in 2018 was 1.16, reflecting the vast amounts of waste everyone is responsible for. Meanwhile, that same year’s MSW recycling rate was disappointingly low at 35%.

However, we have come some way since 1960, when the recycling rate was lower than 7%. The nationwide recycling rate was 32.1% in 2018, with Americans recycling or composting an impressive total of 93.9 million tons of waste.

Looking at different materials, plastic recycling declined from 9% in 2018 to 5% in 2021. On a brighter note, paper recycling was at a high of 68%, while glass and metal performed better, with respective recycling rates of 27% and 8%.

These recycling statistics highlight the importance of recycling efforts, showcasing that progress is possible and there’s room for improvement in managing our waste more effectively. As businesses, we can play a significant role in boosting these recycling rates and, in turn, contribute to a greener planet.

Generation of Municipal Solid Waste

Generating municipal solid waste (MSW) is a significant issue for businesses in the United States and globally. Both directly and indirectly, business activities contribute substantially to the MSW issue.

YearAverage Amount of MSW (Per Person per Day)
19602.68 pounds
20174.51 pounds

This table shows a noticeable increase in the generation of MSW over the years in the United States. Business organisations need to take sustainability more seriously. There are several steps businesses can take to reduce their waste generation, such as implementing better waste management strategies or investing in technologies that can recycle or reuse waste materials.

Composting and Other Food Management

Composting and other food management practices have taken centre stage in the business world due to their potential to address the alarming rates of food waste. Let’s delve into the current statistics and businesses‘ role in this domain.

Food Waste in the US

Businesses, especially those in the food and beverage industry, are crucial in managing food waste. They can implement effective food management strategies, including inventory management, portion size reduction, and excess food donation.

Composting and food management practices minimise landfill waste and produce nutrient-rich compost that can improve soil quality, promote healthy plant growth, and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.

Composting is also a viable means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Diverting food waste from landfills prevents the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Role of Businesses

It’s estimated that food waste in the US is between 30 and 40% of the food supply. This calls for urgent measures to cut down on waste. By embracing composting, businesses can contribute to a circular economy, turning waste into valuable resources. This can be done on-site or by partnering with local composting facilities.

Benefits of Composting and Food Management

As we advance, businesses need to take the lead in tackling food waste through composting and other food management practices. These steps:

  • Contribute to environmental sustainability,
  • Present cost-saving opportunities, and
  • Enhance a company’s reputation as a green-conscious entity.


Lots of our waste ends up in landfills. Our landfills are getting full, and it’s harming the ground. About nine-tenths of all solid rubbish in the US isn’t recycled. It gets dumped or burned, which hurts our world more.

So, businesses need to do better with recycling and handling waste. If not, they make more bad soil and further hurt the earth. This is why intelligent waste management is vital for us all.

Why is Business Recycling Important?

Now, let’s find out why business recycling is important.

1. Environmental Impact Reduction

Recycling helps reduce the environmental impact of business operations. It conserves natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and minimises landfill waste.

2. Economic Benefits

Recycling can also be economically beneficial for businesses. Recycling waste materials often cost less than disposing of them as garbage. Additionally, recycling can generate revenue through the sale of recyclable materials.

3. Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

Businesses that recycle contribute to sustainable development and demonstrate corporate social responsibility. This can enhance their reputation and brand image, attracting customers who prefer to support environmentally responsible companies.

4. Compliance with Regulations

Many regions have laws and regulations requiring certain types of businesses to recycle, helping to ensure compliance and avoid potential fines.

5. Resource Efficiency

Recycling promotes the efficient use of resources. By reusing materials, businesses can reduce the demand for new raw materials, which often require more energy and resources.

6. Innovation and Market Opportunities

Recycling can drive innovation and create new market opportunities. Businesses can develop new products or services based on recycled materials, tapping into markets that value sustainability.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Benefits of Recycling

One of the many benefits of recycling includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When we recycle, we use less energy than making new materials from scratch. This means that fewer carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Recycling helps prevent pollution and reduces the need for mining and processing raw materials, which can contribute to climate change. By recycling and reusing items, we can decrease the amount of waste in landfills–a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Efficient recycling processes can minimise carbon impacts and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So, by prioritising recycling practices in businesses, we can positively impact the environment and combat climate change effectively.

Challenges in Recycling

Various barriers to increasing recycling statistics rates include inadequate infrastructure and limited consumer education on proper recycling practices. Let’s dive deep into the challenges of recycling.

Barriers to Increasing Recycling Statistics

One of the main barriers to increasing recycling rates is poor education on proper recycling practices. Many people are unaware of what can and cannot be recycled, leading to contamination of recycling bins. This means that non-recyclable items in the recycling stream make separating and processing materials difficult.

Another barrier is the low market price of natural resources and virgin raw materials. When these resources are cheap, businesses become less economically viable to invest in recycling processes. Instead, they may choose to use new materials instead of recycled ones.

Furthermore, plastic packaging waste faces significant challenges in achieving high recycling rates. Only around 30% of plastic is currently being recycled and reused. This is due to various reasons, such as the complex nature of different types of plastics and the limited infrastructure for processing them.

Issues With Recycling Infrastructure

For example, the recycling infrastructure in the US has several challenges that need to be addressed. One major problem is the inadequate waste management system. The current infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the amount of generated waste, causing bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Another issue is the contamination from mixed materials, especially in plastic recycling. This makes it difficult to recycle plastics effectively and decreases the quality of recycled materials.

Furthermore, consumer goods companies also contribute to this contamination problem by using non-recyclable packaging or mixing different types of plastics. Improper handling of recycled materials is another concern. Sometimes, recycled materials in the US are exported to countries that lack proper facilities for recycling them, leading to environmental damage.

There are also challenges and shortcomings within the recycling industry itself. Worker safety can be a concern, as handling certain types of waste can pose health risks without proper protection measures.

How Can Businesses Benefit From Recycling?

By implementing effective recycling practices, businesses contribute to a company’s immediate financial and operational aspects and support long-term sustainability and success in an increasingly environmentally conscious market.

1. Cost Savings

Recycling can lead to significant cost savings. Disposing of waste in landfills often incurs higher fees than recycling. By reducing waste disposal costs, businesses can improve their bottom line.

2. Revenue Generation

Some recyclable materials can be sold, turning waste into a source of revenue. Markets for recycled materials like paper, metal, and certain plastics can be lucrative.

3. Enhanced Brand Image and Customer Loyalty

Implementing recycling practices can enhance a business’s reputation as an environmentally responsible entity. This can attract customers who prefer to support sustainable companies, leading to increased customer loyalty and potentially higher sales.

4. Compliance and Risk Management

Recycling helps businesses comply with local, state, and federal environmental regulations, reducing the risk of fines and legal issues.

5. Improved Efficiency and Resource Management

Recycling encourages businesses to assess their use of waste streams and resources more closely, often leading to improved operational efficiency. This can involve reducing material usage, reusing materials, and streamlining processes.

6. Employee Engagement and Morale

Many employees value working for a company committed to sustainability. Recycling programs can boost employee morale and engagement, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

7. Innovation and New Business Opportunities

Recycling can stimulate innovation as businesses seek new uses for recycled materials. This can lead to the development of new products or services and the opening of new markets and business opportunities.

8. Sustainability Goals and Corporate Responsibility

Recycling is vital to sustainable business practices. By recycling, businesses contribute to conserving resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with broader corporate social responsibility goals.

9. Community Relations

Businesses that actively recycle can strengthen their relationships within their communities, often seen as contributing positively to local environmental efforts.

10. Long-Term Viability

In a world where resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and environmental concerns are growing, businesses that adopt recycling practices are more likely to be sustainable in the long term.

Opportunities for Businesses in Recycling

There are several opportunities for businesses to get involved in recycling, such as investing in green research and development (R&D) or forming strategic alliances focused on recycling.

Investing in Green R&D

Investing in green R&D is a smart move for businesses looking to impact the environment and take advantage of recycling opportunities positively. Here are some key reasons why:

1. Innovation

Green R&D allows businesses to develop new and improved recycling technologies, processes, and products. This innovation can help reduce waste, conserve resources, and create value-added products from recycled materials.

2. Circular Economy

Investing in green R&D supports the transition towards a circular economy. By closing the loop through recycling, businesses can minimise reliance on virgin materials, reduce carbon emissions, and promote sustainable development.

3. Environmental Conservation

Green R&D also enables businesses to find eco-friendly solutions for waste management and energy production. This can help protect natural resources, preserve ecosystems, and contribute to biodiversity conservation.

4. Resource Efficiency

Through investing in green R&D, businesses can improve resource efficiency by extracting maximum value from waste streams. This reduces environmental impacts and brings economic benefits by reducing costs associated with resource extraction.

5. Renewable Energy

Green R&D offers opportunities for businesses to explore renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. By investing in these technologies, companies can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and decrease their carbon footprint.

6. Carbon Footprint Reduction

Investing in green R&D also contributes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by promoting sustainable practices throughout the production process. This can help businesses meet sustainability goals while also attracting environmentally conscious customers.

Strategic Alliances for Recycling

Strategic alliances can help businesses improve their recycling efforts and contribute to a more sustainable future. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Collaboration with recycling partners: By partnering with recycling organisations, businesses can access resources and expertise to implement effective waste management systems.
  2. Joint initiatives for research and development (R&D): Businesses can collaborate with universities, research institutions, and other companies to develop innovative recycling technologies and processes.
  3. Supply chain partnerships: Establishing strategic alliances with suppliers and customers can create a closed-loop system where materials are recycled and reused within the supply chain.
  4. Education and awareness campaigns: Join other businesses or industry associations to raise awareness about recycling among employees, customers, and stakeholders.
  5. Advocacy for policy changes: By forming alliances with other businesses, organisations can advocate for policies that support recycling infrastructure development and incentivise sustainable practices.
  6. Sharing best practices: Collaboration between businesses in the same industry can lead to sharing successful recycling strategies, helping all parties improve their waste management efforts.
  7. Engagement in circular business models: Explore opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles into your business model, such as designing products for easier recycling or creating innovative ways to repurpose waste materials.

Closing the Loop: The Business Case for Recycling

In this section, we will explore the economic benefits that recycling can bring to businesses and why it makes good business sense to incorporate recycling initiatives into their operations.

Economic Benefits of Recycling for Businesses

The economic benefits of recycling for businesses are significant. The recycling industry in the US provides over 500,000 jobs and generates more than $100 billion in revenue. Companies can contribute to job creation and revenue generation by investing in recycling.

Recycling also has positive economic impacts by reducing the need for raw materials extraction and decreasing waste disposal costs. Additionally, closed-loop recycling is a sustainable concept that allows materials to be recycled indefinitely without degradation of properties.

Industries such as metal, paper, and plastics greatly benefit from recycling practices. Overall, embracing recycling can bring about various economic advantages for businesses.

In conclusion, recycling is crucial in reducing waste and conserving resources. Although there are challenges to overcome, businesses have opportunities to contribute to the circular economy through recycling initiatives. By investing in green practices and strategic alliances, businesses can protect the environment and reap economic benefits. Let’s work together towards a sustainable future for our companies and the planet.


What are some common items that businesses can recycle?

Common items that businesses can recycle include paper and cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and jars, aluminium cans, and electronic waste such as old computers and printers.

Are there legal requirements for business recycling?

Yes, business recycling may have legal requirements depending on the country or region. Businesses need to familiarise themselves with local regulations to ensure compliance.

Where can I find business recycling statistics?

You can find business recycling statistics from various sources, such as government agencies, environmental organisations, or research institutions specialising in waste management or sustainability studies.

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