Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Much Did We Toss in 2010?

How Much Did We Toss in 2010?

recology, san francisco
Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash last year and recycled or composted 34 percent of that material, according to a new report from the EPA. Photo: Alexis Petru, Earth911.
Last year, the average American produced 4.43 pounds of waste per day and recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of that material.

That’s according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency, which released “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010,” on Nov. 15, in conjunction with America Recycles Day. The report, which comes out every two years, has tracked the U.S.’s waste and recycling trends for the last three decades.

In 2010, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted nearly 85 million tons of this material, achieving a 34 percent national recy­cling rate. Approximately 29 million tons of waste – or 12 percent – was burned to generate energy, and around 136 million tons – 54 percent – ended up in the landfill.

READ: Is Burning Trash Bad?
Diverting 34 percent of our waste from the dump reduced more than 186 million metric tons of carbon emissions – the equivalent of the greenhouse gases emitted from over 36 million cars. It also saved more than 1.3 quadrillion Btu’s of energy, which is equal to over 229 million barrels of oil.

Trash from single- and multi-family homes made up 55-65 percent of the total waste produced in 2010, while 35-45 percent of the waste came from the commercial sector including businesses, schools and hospitals.

The EPA report also found that although Americans are producing a higher amount of waste than 30 years ago, we’re also recycling more. In 1980, the typical American generated 3.66 pounds of trash per day, as compared to 2010’s daily rate of 4.43 pounds.

But the national recycling rate has also climbed – from less than 10 percent in 1980 to 34 percent last year. The growing recycling rate means less waste is ending up in the landfill: While 89 percent of waste went to the landfill in 1980, about 54 percent of trash generated in 2010 was disposed of in the dump.

In fact, due to our waste diversion efforts, Americans are actually sending less waste to the landfill per person than we did in 1960, when virtually no formal recycling programs existed. Last year, 2.4 pounds of waste per person per day went to the dump, as compared with 1960’s per capita daily discard rate of 2.51 pounds.

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