Continuing a long list of fun stats on waste in the U.S. …

I found a huge list here that included stats such as:

  • The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year.
  • Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.
  • Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove.
  • Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000. The recycled product can be sold for $32.
  • Americans who change their own oil throw away 120 million gallons of reusable oil every year.
  • The estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, an extra million tons of waste is generated each week.
  • 38,000 miles of ribbon are thrown away each year, enough to tie a bow around the Earth.
There are more lists out there to be found. But even my dedicating Googling couldn't find hard numbers regarding recycled wood floors. All of us in the industry know that wood is environmentally friendly as a carbon sink, as a material requiring relatively low energy to process, and as a recyclable and/or reusable product. We also know that almost "total recovery" can be possible from a tree, with even sawdust and woodchips and bark finding useful homes. But there aren't many hard numbers out there. Groups are working on LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) reports that will provide some figures and we have comparisons to wood vs. other materials in energy costs. Still, I'm wondering: Do we recycle more or fewer miles of flooring then we do ribbon?

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")