How Much Do We Really Recycle: Infographic

Filed under: All Infographics, Environment Infographics | 5 Comments »

recylcing infographic

As this infographic confirms, we are, for lack of a better phrase, a “throw away” culture. That is, we do ridiculous things like dispose of seven and a half times our body weight each year. As expected, the above infographic makes a compelling case for recycling. It’s filled with tidbits that make you throw your hands up and say, “recycling is best!” That’s assuming you were on the fence of course. Most people know recycling is best; they just don’t do it out of laziness.

Some things about recycling you probably did not know but likely are not surprised by:
–Glass can be recycled over and over without ever losing its purity
–70% less energy is used to manufacture recycled paper
–The energy conserved from recycling one bottle can power a light bulb for one hour
–One recycled can of aluminum contains enough energy to power a Sony TV for three hours

Yes, there can be no argument. A world where more people recycle is the kind of world that most people should want to live in. I do have some issues with the “facts” presented at the bottom of the article though. The graphic claims that certain objects would take several thousand (or in some cases, several million) years to decompose. A Styrofoam cup, for instance, supposedly would not decompose until the year 7,500,000,000 A.D. Really? I have a hard time believing this. If you threw a Styrofoam cup in the woods, you’re telling me it would really take over a billion years for it to erode? I doubt that. What would happen in reality is that maggots and ants would eventually get on it, and it would begin to break down. When you combine the effects of animals with other elements of nature, such as rain and acid rain, the abstract theory that it would take billions of years for the cup to break down becomes even more implausible.

My basic philosophy is this: I’m all for recycling, but don’t try to scare me with inane claims about how long it takes for objects to decompose in a non-controlled, natural environment.

Infographics Scorecard

Design: B

The design meshes several elements well, and the bottom of the graphic is very aesthetically pleasing due to its use of objects.  Certain elements of the graphic are patchy though.  The “Total Individual Lifetime Disposal” circle is not necessarily easy to understand at first glance. It bogs down a bit. That portion of the graphic could have been handled better.

Content: B+

The content is well-presented, and for the most part, in an easy-to-understand way.  I would have awarded a higher grade, but as I explained earlier, I’m not buying the creator’s argument that it would take thousands and thousands of years for plastic jugs and glass bottles to decompose.  The Styrofoam cup theory makes even less sense when you factor in the temperature changes of the planet.  Think about how hot the planet will be in 7 billion years.

Overall, this graphic is very well-done but has some room for improvement.

This graphic was provided by the fine folks at

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5 Comments on “How Much Do We Really Recycle: Infographic”

  1. 1 Nichol said at 11:38 am on August 30th, 2010:

    .. the Netherlands percentage of 49% is inconsistent with the length of its bar in the graph.

    Also: there must be a lot of non-municipal recycling going on. So how relevant is the percentage of municipal recycling & composting? And now we’re at it: what does this percentage mean at all? The percentage by weight of garbage not ending up on a landfill?

  2. 2 Katherine said at 9:27 am on September 23rd, 2011:

    Hey dude, if you’re going to knock an article for its fallacies, you should check your facts first: it claims that a styrofoam cup in a LANDFILL will take that long to erode, not in the woods. If that changes your outlook, I would be curious as to your final take. I think it’s a very well written piece.

  3. 3 Kathy said at 9:35 am on April 20th, 2012:


    I like your infographic and I was asked to create an infographic for my boss in the field of tourism.
    Now my question: What tool did you use to create this infographic??

    Thx for your answer!
    Greetings Kathy

  4. 4 ecology_I said at 6:35 pm on April 27th, 2013:

    How Much Do We Really Recycle: Infographic | Infographics Showcase

  5. 5 Tracy_Ilgner said at 6:35 pm on April 27th, 2013:

    How Much Do We Really Recycle: Infographic | Infographics Showcase