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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 2012.


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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

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Did You Know?

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Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change. In the U.S., buildings account for 40% of all CO2 emissions. Source: Energy Information Administration (2009). Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the US.


Case Study

Occupant Comfort

Operable Windows

Comfortable workers are more likely to be productive and engaged with their work than those who struggle to work in spaces that create barriers and stresses. With an ever increasing number of environmental issues to be mindful of when designing spaces, GSA is developing practices that support both sustainability and worker comfort.

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