Combined U.S. Recycling & Composting Rate Drops to 34.5% for 2012

The latest figures from the U.S. EPA show that the combined recycling and composting rate for MSW in the has fallen from 34.7% in 2011 to 34.5% in 2012.

The latest figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the overall recycling rate for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the U.S. has fallen from 34.7% in 2011 to 34.5% in 2012.

According to the figures, in 2012, the U.S. generated around 251 million tons (230 million tonnes) of MSW and recycled or composted almost 87 million tons (79 million tonnes).

On average, Americans recycled and composted around 1.51 pounds (684g) out of our individual waste generation rate of 4.38 pounds (1986g) per person per day.

In 2012 the country as a whole recycled around 65 million tons (59 million tonnes) of MSW and composted over 21 million tons (19.5 million tonnes) tons through composting.

Of the remaining 65.5%, around 11.7% or 29 million tons (26.3 million tonne) was sent for energy recovery, while 53.8% or 135 million tons (122.5 million tonnes) was discarded in landfill sites.

The amount of waste being sent to waste to energy facilities in the U.S. has remained unchanged now since 2010, but remains down on the 2000 peak of 33.7 million tons (30.6 million tonnes).

The EPA also noted in the report that as a percentage of total MSW generation, recycling and composting combined did not exceed 15% until 1990. Growth in the recycling rate over the next 15 years was rapid, but that has slowed over the last five years, culminating in a reversal for 2012.

Bright spots

Measured by percentage of generation, the EPA found that the products with the highest recovery rates in 2012 were:

Lead-acid batteries - 96% Corrugated boxes  - 91%), steel cans -71%, Newspapers/mechanical papers 70% Major appliances - 64% Yard trimmings - 58% Aluminum cans - 55% Tires - 45% Mixed paper - 43%

The EPA’s facts and figures publication can be downloaded HERE

This story also featured in WMW’s Weekly Newscast below

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