Sappi eQ Journal 005: Rethinking Recycling - Picking Apart Our Trash
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) consists of materials ordinary citizens throw into the trash at our homes and offices. This includes everything from food scraps to lawn waste to old tires and computers — even paper products. MSW does not, however, include industrial or construction waste.
All MSW doesn’t necessarily have to wind up in a landfill, but unfortunately most of it does. In fact, around two-thirds of everything we as a society throw into the trash make its way into a landfill. However, there are a wide range of environmental benefits to be reaped from recycling various materials. For materials like e-waste it is possible to recover precious metals and eliminate potential environmental damage. For household products like aluminum or glass beverage containers, there are enormous energy savings for using recycled materials over processing raw materials. The number one reason to recycle paper is to avoid the generation of greenhouse gases in landfills.
The good news is that educational programs and greater access to recycling facilities have resulted in a significant rise in recycling rates since the middle of the 20th century. In fact, recycling rates in the US have increased 432% since 1960. So we’re doing a much better job today than we have in the past, but as you can see from the facts below, there is still plenty of room for improvement in recycling the materials.
Did you know:
- Solid waste generation increased by 0.77 pounds per person per day between 1980 and 2010, while recycling rates also increased during that same period--up from less than 10% in 1980 to about 34% in 2010. The total amount of waste going to landfills has remanined over 160 million tons per year since 1990.
- In 2010, Americans on average produced 4.43 pounds of trash for every man, woman and child in the country every day. Of the 250 million tons generated, we managed to compost of recycle roughly 85 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) that's just over one third, 34.1%