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Waste Management in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Although the United States represents just four percent of the global population, it accounts for 12 percent of global municipal solid waste generation. Modern lifestyles have resulted in a huge increase in waste production in the U.S. since the 1960’s. As such, the country needs a waste management infrastructure that can handle the vast quantities of garbage that households and businesses produce. Waste can be disposed and treated in a number of ways, such as landfill disposal, recycling, and waste-to-energy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all waste material under the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Waste disposal in the U.S.

As waste generation has increased over the years, so too has the volume of materials recycled and composted. However, the recycling rate in the United States stands at just over 30 percent. Of the roughly 300 million metric tons of MSW generated in the U.S., much is discarded at landfills. Not all types of plastic that is placed into recycling bins is recycled in the U.S. This means large volumes of plastics are landfilled, making it the second most common waste material that is landfilled.
There are more than 1,200 municipal waste landfills in the U.S., with a large number of operating landfills located in California. The waste management company Waste Management Inc. accounts for more than a quarter of the total waste managed in U.S. landfills.

American waste management companies

As of 2020, there were more than 12,000 businesses in the U.S. waste collection services industry, employing more than 200,000 people. One of the largest waste companies operating in the U.S. is Waste Management Inc, which had an enterprise value of approximately 51 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, and had a market capitalization of 41 billion U.S. dollars. In 2020, Waste Management Inc. completed the acquisition of Advanced Disposal Services for 4.6 billion U.S. dollars. However, in order to proceed with the acquisition, Waste Management Inc. had to divest 15 landfills, 37 transfer stations, 29 hauling locations, and over 200 waste collection routes, and other assets across 10 states.

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Waste management in the U.S.

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