Here is an interesting read from Brian Palmer at Slate regarding trash and landfill space in the US. I found the landfill statistics particularly interesting. When we recycle our trash, we typically think in terms of "saving land" from being used for garbage disposal. But, in most states, land availability is not a problem at all. So, when you enjoy your non-use benefits from recycling, think in these terms as well. I also find the NIMBY issue interesting. Despite the plethora of land available for trash disposal, no one wants a landfill near their city. As a result, we ship a lot of trash, creating more pollution along the way. Of course, this is just one of many pollution problems that are simply outsourced to other locations.
As discussed in the lecture, recycling can create an host of benefits, including reduced energy use, reduced air pollution and reduced extraction of virgin raw materials. How does the US stack up when it comes to MSW generation and recycling? Not so great.
Check out some stats here from the UN, and here from Nationmaster.
This graphic is pretty cool too.