Generation and discards of municipal solid waste: U.S. 1960-2018

In 2018, municipal solid waste generation in the United States reached about 292 million short tons, of which, 146 million tons were considered discards to the landfill or were disposed of in another way. Of this landfilled waste, most of it is from food, yard trimmings, and inorganic waste. Plastic products and packaging are also one of the most commonly disposed waste materials in the United States and has been one of the main subjects of environmental pollution in recent years.

U.S. Landfills

The number of landfills in the United States has decreased over the last decades in the United States. Many of the active landfills in the United States are starting to reach their capacity, most notably in the Northeast. This loss of landfill capacity combined with increasing waste generation could be detrimental to the environment and the state of waste in the country. To prevent landfills from reaching their capacity, there are several things that can be done. Waste processors could burn more waste as a source of energy, although there is a heavy emissions toll involved. The number of landfills can be increased, but it requires time to receive approval and for construction as well as increased possibility of pollution. One of the most environmentally friendly option s would be to minimize trash generation which would require regulations and policies that target both manufacturers and consumers.

U.S. municipal solid waste generation and discards from 1960 to 2018 (in million tons)*

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Release date

November 2020


United States

Survey time period

1960 to 2018

Supplementary notes

* Includes discards to landfill, and other disposal. Discards after recovery minus combustion with energy recovery. Discards include combustion without energy recovery. Details might not add to totals due to rounding.

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