recycling facts with a reusable bag autumn leaves

15 Curious Recycling Facts & Statistics for Grown-Ups and Kids

Are you curious to find out more about recycling? Do you want to know which countries recycle the most? And what’s the big deal about recycling plastic bottles? 

Continue reading to find the answers to these and other burning questions about recycling in the world today. 

Top 7 Recycling Facts You Should Know

  • 2.5 million plastic bottles are discarded every hour in the US.
  • You can recycle cardboard boxes 7 times to make furniture or new boxes.
  • Glass and stainless steel are 100% recyclable
  • Recycling a ton of plastic bottles can save over 3,000 pounds of toxic emissions.
  • Sweden recycles and converts into energy 99% of its trash.
  • Only 35% of US waste was recycled or diverted in 2022.
  • The energy from 1 recycled glass bottle can power your computer for 30 minutes.

Why Is Recycling Important? The Facts

As we buy more and more products, we end up throwing more and more trash into the environment. That leads to pollution that extends to our primary life sources — air and water. We’re digging our own graves by hurting the planet’s ecosystem. And this is where recycling comes in.

While recycling isn’t a solution to all of our ecological problems, it’s a way to build awareness and work on building more sustainable habits for a better tomorrow. Recycling preserves natural resources by reducing the need to extract new materials. Plus, it requires significantly less energy. That in turn means less toxic emissions, and climate change remains one of the biggest issues we face today. 

But the biggest reason why recycling is important is education. As more people understand how sustainable practices help the planet, we can transition to a global community that cares and acts to make our home a better place.

Why Is Recycling Important for Kids?

Kids are our future. They’re the grown-ups of tomorrow that will have the enormous responsibility of dealing with our past mistakes of mistreating and polluting the planet. And the best we can do is to prepare them for it.

Teaching kids about the importance of recycling from an early age means raising people that are more responsible and mindful of their consumer choices. 

But it’s not just about teaching children. It’s just as much about learning from them. A UK study from 2022 shows that children influence the eco-friendly habits of 64% of parents. Learning more about recycling at a young age can help the whole family to change their habits.

Interesting Recycling Facts & Statistics

I’ve curated the latest facts exploring the recycling rate in different countries. Let’s see how much we actually recycle and learn a few more interesting stats on different materials.

1. Over 79% of recycled aluminum cans are used to make new products.

(Source: International Aluminium)

It’s among the best-reused materials with almost double the recyclability of plastic or glass. Besides, recycling aluminum preserves 90% of the energy used to make new material. This begs the question if a transition to aluminum packaging won’t solve at least partially our issues with plastic.

2. The European recycling rate in 2020 was 46%. 

(Source: EEA)

While that number is far from the optimistic facts about recycling, the good news is that at least the recycling rate for packaging waste shows an increase. This results from strict EU policies and a hint of what we can achieve if we act more.

3. 8 countries had a recycling rate of 50% or more in 2020.

(Source: EEA)

Among them are:

  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Slovenia
  • the Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Luxembourg. 

And while that’s great news, many countries show little to no recycling progress. For instance, the recycling rate in Malta is just 11%, and it’s 0 for Kosovo.

4. Sweden sends just 1% of its trash to landfills.

(Source: Blue Ocean Strategy)

For most countries, waste is a burden, but Sweden is the exception that has managed to turn this problem into a beneficial solution. 

Statistics on recycling and important facts show that the country recycles 47% of its trash and converts another 52% into energy. The generated power goes to 250,000 homes for electricity and heating. It’s proof that, with the right infrastructure and attitude, trash doesn’t have to be an issue. In fact, it can even be profitable.

plastic water bottle in the sea

Recycling Facts About Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are among the biggest problems when it comes to waste. They take hundreds of years to decompose, yet our bottled water consumption grows yearly. Recycling plastic bottles is the least we could do to help with this issue. 

5. Unrecycled plastic bottles would take 450 years to decompose. 

(Source: The Earthling Co)

Since plastic isn’t a naturally occurring material, there are no organisms that can help to break it down. That’s one more argument for using reusable water bottles. It’s also a strong reason to think twice about buying drinks in plastic bottles.

6. Recycling a ton of plastic bottles can save over 3,000 pounds of toxic emissions.

(Source: RTS)

But one of the well-known facts about recycling plastic is that the process is incredibly hard. These bottles and packaging are made of different types of plastic that should be divided and recycled separately. Unfortunately, that process is costly and time-consuming.

It would be a lot more beneficial if we succeeded in decreasing the overall demand for plastic bottles. 

7. Only PET#1 and HDPE#2 plastic bottles can be recycled.

(Source: Greenpeace)

But what’s even worse is that an MRF can accept plastic items with no guarantees of recycling them. Many facilities have already admitted that they dispose of plastic that they cannot recycle, reducing part of American recycling actions to meaningless. 

Recycling in America: Stats & Facts

If you want to learn more about recycling in the US, read on. Although the facts aren’t very optimistic.

8. Only 35% of US waste was recycled or diverted in 2022. 

(Source: RTS)

That’s a huge increase from the 60s when only 7% of the trash was recycled. Still, we can do better. Apart from increasing these numbers, we should also focus on educating more people about the correct way to recycle. 

9. The US plastic recycling rate in 2021 was just 5%.

(Source: Greenpeace)

That’s down from 9.5% in 2014. Meanwhile, in 2019, the rate of plastic waste increased to 44 million metric tons. Recycling plastic is incredibly difficult and may prove to be nearly impossible as there are growing concerns about toxicity risks.

10. The US recycled 65% of its paper and cardboard in 2021. 

(Source: Statista)

That shows a significant improvement as the number had more than doubled since the 1990s. Paper remains the most recycled material in the US.

girl in green chasing a bubble

Recycling Facts for Kids

Kids should learn about recycling from a young age, so they can build good habits and helps us change ours.

11. Glass and stainless steel are 100% recyclable.

(Source: Recycle Now) 

That’s why they’re the best materials for a reusable water bottle. A reusable water bottle is an alternative to plastic water bottles which are a lot more difficult to recycle. If you want to help the planet, ask for a good reusable bottle.

12. One family uses paper equal to 6 trees annually.

(Source: The World Counts)

That’s why recycling paper is so important. We need to preserve this resource to save energy and reduce the number of greenhouse emissions we release into the environment. Luckily, recycling paper is easy, and we can use it to make new products like boxes or furniture.

13. The energy from 1 recycled glass bottle can power your computer for 30 minutes. 

(Source: Recycling Partnership)

A fun fact about recycling glass is that it requires 40% less energy than making new glass. Also, we can use glass to make renewable energy.

14. We cannot recycle wrapping paper with dye, glitter, metallic flakes, or plastic.

(Source: Recycle Now)

It’s exciting to see your Christmas presents wrapped in all that beautiful shiny paper. But that paper isn’t recyclable, making it bad for the environment. It’s much better to wrap presents in fabric or sustainable wrapping paper. You can still make it look pretty with a ribbon. 

15. A cardboard box can be recycled at least 7 times. 

(Source: Recycling Partnership)

We can also use it to make new cardboard boxes. It’s a great material for reusing, which is good news, considering that most of our delivery packages arrive in cardboard boxes.  


Here are a few of my final thoughts based on the recycling stats and facts above:

  • Single-use plastics should be banned in favor of reusable, refillable, and package-free options.
  • Aluminum packaging is a lot more sustainable. A wider use of the material could help us reduce plastic pollution and move to more eco-friendly practices.
  • Children can influence their parents when it comes to sustainable habits. 
  • Sweden is the best example of a country that manages its trash in the best possible way.
  • The US needs to catch up to other countries in terms of recycling rate.
  • Recycling can help us save resources, money, and energy. 


Who invented recycling?

One of the earliest examples of recycling dates back to 9th-century Japan. The Japanese have a long history of resource preservation and even treat recycled paper as more precious. Throughout history, they often used it to write down poetry. 

What are the 3 types of recycling?

Recycling fun facts show the 3 main types include mechanical recycling, energy recycling, and chemical recycling. The mechanical process is used for recycling plastics and making new objects out of them. Energy recycling transforms the material into electric or thermal energy. The last type, chemical recycling, is the most complicated one as it changes the chemical structure of the material upon processing.

What makes an item recyclable?

A recyclable item is an item that can be collected, sorted, and processed to make another item or be reused. Generally, households recycle plastic, paper, glass, and metal. If you’re not sure whether an item is recyclable, you should learn more about the packaging labels that can help you answer this question.

What is a shocking fact about recycling?

One of the shocking but interesting facts about recycling is that most countries have a recycling rate of less than 50%. Only 8 countries go beyond that number. Recycling isn’t that hard, and it’s one of the few things all of us can do right now to help the planet. 

Which country recycles the most?

Germany recycles the most. The country recycles over 56% of the produced trash. This incredible rate is thanks to implementing policies and infrastructure that work together to improve Germany’s preservation efforts.

Can recycling help our environment?

Yes, recycling is among the few important actions we can take to help our environment. It reduces waste and greenhouse gas emissions, saving energy in the process. Materials like plastics cannot break down on their own, so it’s important to recycle them instead of throwing them in the trash.

What will happen if we don’t recycle?

Recycling facts and statistics show that we’ll fill up landfills faster, which will result in more toxic emissions. That would further exacerbate the effects of climate change. It’ll also increase air and water pollution, leading to more health hazards and death.

What are things that can be recycled?

You can recycle most paper, glass jars or bottles, aluminum cans, and some plastic packaging. Just make sure to clean and dry the containers before recycling them. Also, it’s a good idea to scrunch, squeeze, and flatten everything you recycle so that it takes less space.

How many people recycle?

Recycling rates vary significantly by country. Recycling facts show that only around 32% of people recycle in the US. In contrast, over 50% of people recycle in Germany.


  1. TRVST
  2. Recycle Across America
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy
  4. Greenpeace
  5. EEA
  6. RTS
  7. International Aluminium
  8. The Earthling Co
  9. Statista
  10. Recycling Partnership
  11. Recycle Now
  12. The World Counts

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