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This Art In Hermosa Beach Shows You How Many Bottles And Cans You Use Each Year

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By Caleigh Wells and Brian Frank

Ever wonder how many recyclable bottles and cans you consume every year, or what it might look like if you tossed them all into one big pile?

The Container Recycling Institute took the latest statistics on how many beverages people buy in plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper cartons and turned it all into a real-world infographic in Hermosa Beach.

The result, which took five hours to build, was this pie chart in the sand that looks like two dolphins.

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A public art installation in Hermosa Beach depicts a pie chart and two dolphins. It's made up of 839 bottles, cans and cartons -- that's how many are annually used by the average American. (Photo by Caleigh Wells/LAist)

The artwork is made up of 839 containers -- that's how many are used each year by the average American.

The numbers depicted represent a grim reality: only 32 percent of these containers are recycled on average, which means 68 percent go to waste.

CRI did the same thing last year, and the numbers are only getting worse. In 2017, the organization reported a recycling rate of 37 percent.

The percentage recycled has fallen consistently over the past 25 years, peaking at more than half in 1992 and falling to 32 percent now, according to CRI president Susan Collins.

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Why is all this of concern? A lot of plastics end up in the ocean.

We dump 8 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean every year, enough to equal a third the weight of all the fish in the sea in just a decade, according to CRI, which cited the Ocean Conservancy.

If there's any consolation, it could be this: Californians are actually really good at recycling compared to other states. That's thanks at least in part to the state's long-standing recycling program that uses the California Redemption Value, or CRV, as a public incentive. That's the program that allows you to get 5 to 10 cents back when you recycle a container.

At least nine other states have similar container deposit laws, sometimes called "bottle bills," on the books. Collins calls these laws "the rockstars of recycling."

So what's our score in California? Here we recycle 77 percent of our beverage containers.

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