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U.S. Waste and Recycling


The U.S. generated approximately 251 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2012. Almost 87 million tons were recycled and composted, which represents a 34.5% recycling rate. Solid waste generated per capita is the lowest since the 1980s. This is a 3 percent increase in the tons recycled.

Source: US EPA, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012opens in new window.

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Related Topics


Composting

Composting is the process of decomposing organic waste such as paper plates, food waste, and yard trimmings.  By composting, less waste is sent to the landfill.  Soil with compost improves plant growth with less water; compost can also be used for erosion control. 

EPA | Composting at Homeopens in new window

Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings

The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions are a set of sustainable principles for integrated design, energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, materials, and resilience aimed at helping Federal agencies and organizations:

  • Reduce the total ownership cost of facilities
  • Improve energy efficiency and water conservation
  • Provide safe, healthy, and productive built environments
  • Promote sustainable environmental stewardship

Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions

Recycling

Glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard and paper (including glossy magazines, envelopes with plastic windows and sticky notes) can all be easily recycled.  Depending on the waste hauler, recycling bins can include commingled waste (i.e. all materials are collected in one bin) or they may require separated waste (i.e. one bin for paper, one bin for plastics, etc).  By recycling products, materials are sent back to the marketplace rather than to the landfill. 

EPA | Recycling Basicsopens in new window

Solid Waste

Waste comprises all materials that flow from a building to final disposal.  Examples include paper, grass trimmings, food scraps, and plastics.  Responsible stewardship tries to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill.  This can mean recycling paper, mulching or composting grass trimmings, and reusing large items, such as furniture.

EPA | Land, Waste, and Cleanup Topicsopens in new window

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Did You Know?

Indoor contaminants such as dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pet dander, secondhand smoke and some chemicals can trigger asthma attacks. One in 11 children and one in 12 adults suffer from asthma.

Source: Asthma’s Impact on the Nation (2012): Data from the CDC National Asthma Control Programopens in new window

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Case Study

The Importance of Daylight

Daylight

While many people prefer to be in spaces with abundant daylight, a critical question is to what extent the benefits of daylight matter to those who spend the majority of their time indoors, particularly in an office setting.

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