MARCH 2011

EPA releases municipal solid waste report

The EPA released its most recently completed Municipal Solid Waste Report. This report describes the national municipal solid waste (MSW) stream based on data collected for 1960 through 2009. The historical perspective is useful for establishing trends in types of MSW generated and in the ways it is managed.

Waste report

The United States generated 243 million tons of MSW in 2009 – 8 million tons less than generated in 2008. Excluding composting, 61.3 million tons of MSW were recycled, a slight decrease of 0.5 million tons from 2008. The tons of food scrap and yard trimmings recovered for composting were 20.8 million tons in 2008. The recovery rate for recycling (including composting) was 33.8 percent in 2009, up from 33.4 percent in 2008. Although the tons recycled and composted decreased in 2009, the tons generated also decreased resulting in an increase in the recycling rate.

MSW generation in 2009 declined to 4.34 pounds per person per day. This is a decrease of 4 percent from 2008 to 2009. The recycling rate in 2009 was 1.46 pounds per person per day. Discards sent for combustion with energy recovery was 0.52 pounds per person per day. Discards sent to landfills after recycling and combustion with energy recovery declined to 2.36 pounds per person per day in 2009. This is a decrease of 3.3 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Nationally, Americans recycled and composted 82 million tons of MSW. This provides an annual benefit of 178 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced, comparable to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from almost 33 million passenger vehicles. But the ultimate benefits from recycling are cleaner land, air, and water, overall better health, and a more sustainable economy.