EPA releases latest solid waste, recycling data

EPA releases latest solid waste, recycling data

The report highlights data on national municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris generation for 2018.

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November 16, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures” Nov. 12. The report highlights data on national municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition debris generation for 2018.

The EPA began analyzing data on waste and recycling more than three decades ago, and the agency has data tables that go back to the 1960s focused on waste generation.

In the new report, data show the combined recycling and composting rate increased from less than 10 percent of generated MSW in 1980 to 35 percent in 2017 but then dipped to 32 percent in 2018. In 2018, 292.4 million tons of MSW were generated. About 93.9 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted in 2018, resulting in a 32 percent recycling rate. An additional 17.7 million tons were handled through other food management pathways.

For the report data, EPA says it 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. 

The release of the report coincides with the launch of America Recycles Week, which highlights the economic benefits of recycling. 

Nov. 15, 2018, then acting EPA Administrator Wheeler convened the first-ever America Recycles Summit, which brought an array of industry, government and nonprofit leaders together to advance ideas and solutions to enhance the nation’s recycling infrastructure, create new markets for recycled materials and improve public education regarding recycling. 

In 2019, the agency’s first Innovation Fair connected the public as well as potential investors with recycling innovators, thereby spurring market development and adoption of new technologies that increase recycling rates as well as create new products comprised of postrecycled content.

This year’s Innovation Fair is fully virtual and will feature more than 40 exhibitors from across the recycling system showcasing products, services, outreach and technologies.

“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,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says. “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.”

“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,” EPA Administrator Wheeler says. “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.”

More information on the America Recycles Summit and Innovation Fair is available online.