U.S. Recycling Statistics * Recycling * Re-Use * EPA Recycling Statistics * Composting Programs

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Recycling Statistics for the United States

recycling statistics

Recycling statictic for the United States are staggering. Trash, garbage, municipal solid waste (MSW) - all appropriate terms to describe the tons of material that is discarded by humans on a daily basis in the United States. Since 1980, the generation of municipal solid waste has grown by 60% - surpassing 254 million tons per year in 2007, according to the EPA. To put this in perspective, this is nearly 4.6 pounds per person per day in 2007 - up from 2.7 pounds per day in 1960!

The challenge for all humankind is to implement conservation and recycling, re-use and composting programs to minimize the generation of MSW to begin with. Our society as a whole including consumers, corporations and government must think proactively about reducing our impact. Although significant progress has been made, there is much more work to be done!

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updates recycling statistics every few years. Recycling figures include common household waste such as food scraps, package wrapping, grass clippings, as well as large-ticket items such as televisions, couches, or appliances. Organic materials make up the bulk of wastes that go into land fills. Around 35% are paper and cardboard, while yard trimmings and food scraps total about 24%. MSW that is not taken into account when recycling statistics are computed are items such as hazardous, industrial, and construction waste.

The most recent statistics provided by the EPA were from 2007, as follows:

  • Recycling, including composting, diverted 85 million tons of material away from disposal in 2007, up from 15 million tons in 1980.
  • Recycling and composting rates recovered 33.4% of MSW.
  • There were approximately 8550 curbside recycling programs active in the U.S. in 2007, compared with 8875 programs that existed in 2005.
  • Container and packaging recycling increased to 40%.
  • 42 million tons of paper products were recycled, approximately 55 percent of what could be.
  • 64% of common yard waste was composted (leaves, grass clippings, etc)
  • Batteries are recycled at a rate of 99%