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December 2006

Recycling numbers are up and landfilled trash down

Americans are recycling more and throwing away less according to a new report released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson, announced that the United States recycled 32 percent of its waste in 2005. Including composting, Americans recycled 79 million tons, representing a 2 percent increase from 2004 and a huge jump from 16 percent in 1990.

In all, Americans generated nearly 246 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2005 – a decrease of nearly 2 million tons from 2004. The decrease is due in part to the decline in individual waste generation to about 4.5 pounds per person per day, representing a 1.5 percent decrease from 2004. In addition to generating less waste, individuals recycled nearly 1.5 pounds per person per day.

Other data contained in the report show recycling trends across the board are generally up:

  • Container and packaging recycling increased to 40 percent;
  • Nearly 62 percent of yard waste was composted; and
  • About 42 million tons of paper were recycled—a 50 percent recycling rate.

EPA has collected and reported on data going back to 1960 on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The information is used to measure the success of municipal solid waste reduction and recycling programs across the country.

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