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10 Highest Trash Producing Cities in 2023

10 Highest Trash Producing Cities in 2023

Posted by Trashcans Unlimited on 1st Dec 2022

How much trash does each US city produce? What are the highest trash-producing cities in the US?

According to the available data, the average American throws out 4.5 pounds of waste every day, which becomes 268 million tons of waste nation-wide each year. Thirty million tons of this waste is food, 27 million tons is plastic, and 18 million tons is paper and paperboard - not all of which gets recycled. But when it comes to narrowing down trash production by city, the numbers available are surprisingly scarce.

Trash Production by City: The Data Goes Unpublished

No doubt between differing lifestyles, supply chains, and green initiatives, there is a significant difference between the most trash-producing cities in America to the least. However, this is not information that is readily available. After a half-hour of research looking for the highest trash-producing cities in the US, we have revealed that this information simply isn't publicly published. In fact, neither is the trash production by state.

From government data to private data, waste per-state is measured in landfill storage - not actually in per-capita production. This means that states which accept waste from other states bear the heaviest burden, while states that export much of their solid waste look a little better.

For example, it's well-known that New York City is one of the largest trash-producing cities in the nation, but much of its trash is exported to New Jersey. Even so, both states pale in comparison to the trash per capita stored by the top-landfill states of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

The Highest Trash Storing States in the US

Here are the top ten states measured by landfill mass per capita. While this may reflect something of the lifestyles and waste production of the region, the data is rarely presented with information about imported garbage vs locally produced waste.

  1. Michigan
  2. Indiana
  3. Illinois
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Ohio
  6. California
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Nevada
  9. Colorado
  10. Kentucky

Indianapolis: #1 Trash-Dense City in the US

Although trash production per state is difficult to find online, there are records somewhere because Indianapolis has been deemed the most wasteful city in the US. Indiana definitely has some struggles when it comes to waste efficiency and is usually in second or third place in terms of trash storage. But Indianapolis' waste production rate far outstrips the rest of the state.

The data suggest that Indianapolis recycles only about 7% of its trash, while the rest of the state is closer to a 20% recycling rate. However, beyond being named the worst city in the nation for trash production, the data becomes opaque again. The second greatest trash-producing city is not mentioned and the related data is always listed by state and storage rather than by city or production.

New York and Los Angeles

The finger for the most wasteful city has also been pointed at New York and Los Angeles, but without any actual annual data offered to back up these claims. New York is known for its trash crises when a garbage collector strike occurs, and recycles only 17% of its total trash. Los Angeles is often named the Most Wasteful City in the World, but again without solid data linked or referenced to back up the apocryphal claim. Indeed, most of the click-bait articles on this topic completely miss Indianapolis' top spot, presumably due to the lack of data used for the publication.

Understanding Trash Production and Landfills in the US

One of the reasons the data is so muddled, other than a lack of desire for responsible transparency, is that trash is measured by where it goes, not where it starts. States that have large landfills get a bad reputation, but data on their actual trash production is not made clear. It can be theorized that both cities and states would prefer this information not be made publically available, and for export operations to larger states with landfill space to continue as it does currently.

Reducing Trash with Effective Receptacle Design

Among the best ways to reduce the trash production in your city and to decrease the overall waste produced by US residents is to focus on recycling. Many containers and packaging designs today can be recycled, and keeping the right recycle bins available in your home and throughout your city can be essential to promoting a stronger rate or recycling. After all, a low recycling rate is part of why Indianapolis gets flack for being the most wasteful city in the US.

The more your community can turn trash tonnage into recycling tonnage, the more you can reduce overall waste production in the region. You can also increase the rate and affordability of recycled products.

Composting and Community Gardens

Another way to reduce trash production in your city is composting. Food waste makes up the single largest category of trash production in the US, which means composting every scrap of vegetable matter and even things like bread can significantly reduce your overall waste production. Of course, not everyone has a green thumb, and not everyone has space for a garden. This promotes the growth of community gardens and neighborhood compost projects.

Residents can bring their daily or weekly kitchen scraps to the compost to fight the mass of food waste that often goes to the dump. Not only will you be reducing the amount of food waste that is sent to landfills, you may also be contributing to a community enriching garden space and even fresh vegetables for you and your neighbors.

Fighting Retail Waste

Of course, the darkest aspect of US trash production occurs out the back of retail stores. Grocery stores and other retail locations throw out 16 metric tons of food waste every week that is past its sell-by date - even if the food is still good to eat. Likewise, unsold non-food merchandise and even store equipment that is no longer in use gets chucked into the nearest dumpster on a regular basis.

While the average American can bring down their total waste to below 2 pounds of trash a day, our problem with growing landfills won't stop until we also change how stores deal with surplus inventory.

The best place to start is by sorting our trash using the right receptacles. To set up trash cans, recycling bins, and even compost bins, contact Trashcans Unlimited today.