Plastic Facts

Image of items that go in Blue Bags
  • A one gallon plastic milk container that weighed 120 grams in 1960 now weighs just 65 grams.
  • The average 1992 American car contains 300 pounds of plastic made from about 60 different resins.
  • Every year, we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  • 10% of the average grocery bill pays for packaging (mostly paper and plastics) - that's more than goes to the farmers.
  • In 1993, plastics accounted for 11.5% of the U.S. municipal waste stream by weight (23.9% by volume). In 1994, plastics comprised 9.5% (by weight) of the waste stream.
  • The rate of plastic soda bottle recycling rose from 33% in 1990 to 50% in 1994.
  • 0.9 million tons of plastics (4.7%) were recycled in the U.S. in 1994.
  • Products made from recovered plastic bottles include drainage pipes, toys, carpet, filler for pillows and sleeping bags, and cassette casings.
  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent energy usage of a two person household.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year.
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) #2 is the most commonly recycled plastic.
  • Plastic can be recycled into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags,toys, stuffed animals, and rulers.
  • Plastic can take up to a 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.


Major Types of Plastics by S.P.I. Codes
Types of Plastic Packaging

Content on this page provided by Second Time Around - EPA Region 5 and Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Purdue University.