Let’s talk trash. Err, that’s municipal solid waste, but I prefer simply calling it trash. Have you wondered about the trash generation rates of today compared to the last 30 years? How about the recycling rates?
I can’t tell you about the trash of 2012, or even 2011, but the EPA has examined the trash generation and recycling rates of Americans for 2010. And guess what?
Americans are recycling more now than ever, but we’re also generating more trash to be recycled!
Here’s the breakdown for trash generated and percentage recycled:
In 1980, Americans generated 151.6 million tons of trash, and recycled and composted just 14.5 million tons for a modest recycling rate of 9.6 percent.
A decade later in 1990, Americans generated 208.3 million tons of trash, but we recycled and composted 33.2 million tons for an improved recycling rate of 16 percent.
In 2000, Americans generated 242.5 million tons of trash, yet we recycled and composted 69.5 million tons for a recycling rate of 28.6 percent.
Finally, Americans in 2010 generated 249.9 million tons of trash, but we recycled and composted 85.1 million tons for a higher recycling rate of 34.1 percent.
How many pounds per person is that?
So, while the trash generation increased from 3.66 pounds per person in 1980 to 4.43 pounds per person in 2010, we’re dumping less of that trash into landfills.
Disposal of trash in landfills decreased from 89 percent of the amount generated in 1980 to around 54 percent in 2010!
Now that you’ve seen how dramatically our trash production has climbed since 1980, do you feel differently about recycling?
What is your prediction for recycling rates for 2015? I’m guessing we get to at least 50 percent.
Digging Ourselves Out from More Trash Than Ever by Brent Hardy