A white paper suggests that the U.S. recovery rate is slightly lower than the rate estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Research / Warongdech, Shutterstock
The analysis from longtime industry professionals Bill Moore of Moore & Associates and Peter Engel of Kessler Consulting states the U.S. recovery rate for municipal solid waste (MSW) was about 31.8 percent in 2013, 2.5 percentage points below the EPA estimate.
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The 31.8 percent figure is based on MSW data compiled by the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF). EREF conducted surveys across the waste industry to get a sense of how much material was generated and handled in 2013.
According to the work of Moore and Kessler, overall MSW generation is higher than EPA projections indicate, and recycling activity as a percentage of waste generation has been overestimated.
All told, the new research suggests about 369.4 million tons of MSW is generated annually in the U.S. That's far above U.S. EPA estimate of about 254 million tons for 2013.
In addition, Moore and Kessler estimate 117.4 million tons of MSW – 31.8 percent of overall generation – is recycled or composted in the U.S..
About 23 percent of MSW is currently being recycled or composted by the residential sector in the U.S., while the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors recover about 38 percent of the waste they generate, according to the white paper.
An initial announcement about the white paper noted an estimated recovery rate of 28 percent, but the authors revised that number in recent weeks.