How many aluminum cans and plastic water bottles are not recycled each year?

July 5, 2023


Each day in the U.S. seventy million plastic water bottles are used, and most are just thrown away. In fact, it’s estimated that only around 12% of these bottles are recycled. So, doing the math, that means that we throw away over sixty million water bottles every day.

The problem with plastic recycling is that not all plastics can be recycled. In addition, different types of plastics can’t be recycled together. Even when consumers send their plastic items to be recycled, the truth is that only about 5% of those items are actually recycled.

Another problem with plastic is that it’s expensive and labor-intensive to collect and sort. Most plastic is made from petroleum products, and it’s cheaper to just create new plastic than it is to recycle.


Aluminum is one of the most recyclable materials, and it can be recycled time and time again. Unlike most recycling, a used aluminum can is typically recycled directly into a new can, and this process can be repeated over and over again. The average aluminum can contains more than 50% post-consumer recycled aluminum.

While so many plastic water bottles are thrown away every day, when it comes to aluminum cans, the percentages are much better. It’s estimated that we use over 80 billion aluminum beverage cans every year and that around 65% of these cans are recycled. While the number of recycled cans is significant, it also means that we’re sending almost 30 billion cans to landfills. That’s a staggering figure, and what’s worse, the value of that aluminum is estimated to be around $800 million. Aluminum takes 200-500 years to fully degrade in a landfill, but recycling aluminum takes 95% less energy than making aluminum from raw materials.

Final Words

Plastic water bottles and aluminum cans are everywhere. Although both plastic and aluminum can be recycled, the majority of all of these containers end up in landfills. Because of the ease of recycling aluminum versus plastic, some water sellers are planning to switch from plastic to aluminum. In addition, scientists are working on ways to make plastics that are easier to recycle.

Hopefully, these efforts, combined with greater awareness of the environmental impact, will result in consumers insisting that more products are produced using recyclable materials 

For generations, Okon Recycling has been a trusted leader in the international metal recycling industry.  Founded over 100 years ago, we’ve sustained our company by forming solid partnerships with our clients. We completely understand our clients’ systems and workflow, and we provide customized recycling solutions according to their specific needs. Over the years, we have kept millions of pounds of scrap out of landfills. By doing so, we’re paving the way for a cleaner and more sustainable future for generations to come.  If you would like to learn more about our company and the recycling services we offer, please visit our website or contact us at 214-717-4083.