A just-released report from the U.S. EPA indicates the 2013 national recycling rate was 34.3 percent, barely budging from 2012's rate of 34.5 percent.
According to the annual report, which can be viewed here, the U.S. generated 254.11 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2013 and recovered 87.18 million tons for recycling and composting.
MSW generation in 2013 rose by 1.22 percent compared with 2012's generation of 251.04 million tons. Per capita MSW generation also rose a hair in 2013, coming in at 4.40 pounds per person after reaching 4.38 pounds per person in 2012.
The paper and paperboard recycling rate in 2013 was 63.3 percent, down from the 2012 rate of 64.6 percent. The glass recycling rate also fell slightly, coming in at 27.3 percent in 2013 after reaching 27.7 percent in 2012. The plastics recycling rate, at 8.8 percent in 2012, rose to 9.2 percent during the most recently reported year.
The tone of the EPA report made clear the agency's fresh emphasis on sustainable materials management (SMM), an environmental-assessment approach to materials usage that takes into account a number of factors beyond basic disposal and recovery rates. The report on 2013 figures is titled "Advancing Sustainable Materials Management." Last year's report was called "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States."
"As the new name for our annual report suggests, EPA is thinking beyond waste," the report's executive summary reads. "SMM refers to the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable way across their entire life cycle."
Resource Recycling will provide an in-depth analysis on the numbers in next week's electronic newsletter.