What is the largest contributor to waste in the typical American garbage can?

Paper and packaging materials. It accounts for roughly 31% of all waste Americans send to the landfill. Close behind is another contributor to household waste that may surprise you.
 

Food and yard waste accounts for 27% of our annual waste. Households waste approximately 14% of their food purchases, either through spoilage or as scraps. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Stockholm International Water Institute and the International Water Management Institute report that up to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted after production.

The United States generates more than 34 million tons of food waste each year. Paper is the only material category where we generate more waste, but we also recycle more. Food waste is more than 14% of the total municipal solid waste stream. Less than 3% of the 34 million tons of food waste generated in 2009 was recovered and recycled.