About the Private Sector Waste and Recycling Industry

Association members operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and can be found in most, if not all, U.S. congressional districts. Waste and recycling facilities number nearly 18,000 scattered throughout the U.S., mirroring population centers. Our nearly 700 members are a mix of publicly traded and privately-owned local, regional and Fortune 500 national and international companies. The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) represents approximately 70 percent of the private sector waste and recycling market.

The industry directly employs about 450,000 people as of mid-2019 with a total payroll of more than $28 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is estimated that the private sector waste and recycling industry accounts for more than one million jobs and generates nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in U.S. gross domestic product. The industry’s publicly traded companies are among the largest components of the Dow Jones U.S. Waste & Disposal Index.

Americans generated 258 million tons of waste in 2014, nearly triple the amount from 1960, and 169 million tons of that ended up in landfills and incinerators. The U.S. has the highest amount of waste generated per person of any country at an average of 4.6 pounds per day. In a lifetime, the average American will discard nearly 800 times the amount of his or her adult weight.