[Skip to Content]

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 2012.


Related Topics


Composting

Composting is the process of decomposing organic waste such as paper plates, food waste and yard trimmings.  By composting, materials are diverted from the landfill.  Compost can be used as a soil amendment, organic fertilizer, a natural pesticide, and for erosion control. 

http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

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. 

http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/recycling-basics

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.

http://www.epa.gov/osw/index.htm

Share

Did You Know?

People in the U.S. spend about 90% of their time indoors. Source: Environmental Protection Agency (1987). The Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study.


Case Study

Sense of Place

Skylight and Sculpture

What makes a workplace special? What fosters a sense of attachment, engagement and identity? These are the kinds of questions that underlie the sense of place. The workplace is increasingly seen as a “brand” that conveys not only a place, but also the mission and values of the organization. The GSA workplace program combines branding and sense of place with sustainable approaches to create special places imbued with meaning and purpose.

View Case Study

Share Your Story

Do you have a story to share? See and share examples of successes and struggles from our user community in Share