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Americans are Generating Less Waste and Recycling More, EPA Reports

March 18, 2014

Americans are recycling more according to the latest municipal solid waste (MSW) report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), titled, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012. The overall recycling rate has increased from less than 10% of MSW generated in 1980 to over 34% in 2012. In addition, disposal of waste to landfills has decreased from 89% of the amount generated in 1980 to under 54% of MSW generated in 2012.

With respect to packaging, over 34% percent of glass containers and approximately 55% of aluminum beer and soda cans were recycled in 2012, while about 14% of plastic containers and packaging were recycled—mostly from soft drink, milk, and water bottles. Plastic bottles were the most recycled plastic product. In particular, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars were recovered at about 31% in 2012, up from 29% recycled in 2011. Recovery of high density polyethylene (HDPE) natural (white translucent) bottles was estimated at over 28%.