To kick off America Recycles Week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an update to a report highlighting the economic benefits of recycling. By converting waste materials into valuable raw materials, recycling creates jobs, builds more competitive manufacturing industries, and significantly contributes to the U.S. economy.
“The environmental and economic benefits from recycling are clear, and we’ve made a lot of progress, but much more needs to be done to get our national recycling rate where it needs to be,” said EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler. “Our America Recycles Network partnerships will usher in dramatic changes in U.S. recycling by improving aging infrastructure, developing secondary markets, and communicating recycling methods more effectively with the public.”
EPA released the most recent Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures data on national municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition debris for the year 2018. The Agency began analyzing data on waste and materials recycling more than three decades ago, and EPA has data tables that go back to the 1960s. The combined recycling and composting rate increased from less than 10 percent of generated MSW (trash) in 1980 to 35 percent in 2017 but then dipped to 32 percent, as measured in 2018. Specifically, in 2018, 292.4 million tons of MSW were generated. About 93.9 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, resulting in a 32 percent recycling rate. An additional 17.7 million tons were managed through other food management pathways.
For the Facts and Figures data, EPA enhanced its food measurement methodology to more fully account for all the ways in which wasted food is managed throughout the food system. Finally, EPA added construction and demolition debris management data, so both generation and management of construction and demolition debris are included.