Recycling Statistics from EPA
Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected and reported data on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States for more than 30 years. We use this information to measure the success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. These facts and figures are current through calendar year 2008.
In 2008, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted 83 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 33.2 percent recycling rate* (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). On average, we recycled and composted 1.5 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.5 pounds per person per day.
Our trash, or municipal solid waste (MSW), is made up of the things we commonly use and then throw away. These materials range from packaging, food scraps, and grass clippings, to old sofas, computers, tires, and refrigerators. MSW does not include industrial, hazardous, or construction waste.
In 2008, Americans recovered about 61 million tons (excluding composting) through recycling. Composting recovered 22.1 million tons of waste. We combusted about 32 million tons for energy recovery (about 13 percent). Subtracting out what we recycled and composted, we combusted (with energy recovery) or discarded 3 pounds per person per day.
In 2008, office-type paper recovery rose to about 71 percent (4.3 million tons), and about 65 percent of yard trimmings were recovered (see Figure 3). Metals were recycled at a rate of almost 35 percent (see Table 1). By recycling more than 7 million tons of metals (which includes aluminum, steel, and mixed metals), we eliminated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totaling close to 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2E). This is equivalent to removing more than 4.5 million cars from the road for one year.*
About 135 million tons of MSW (54 percent) was discarded in landfills in 2008