We do more than just collect trash. The solid waste industry collects and processes your recyclables and materials for composting. In fact, America’s solid waste industry built and operates the infrastructure that enables recycling.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2008, Americans recycled 61 million tons of paper, cans and bottles and composted another 22 million tons of yard waste, a total of 83 million tons. This total amount of waste recovered for recycling or composting is an increase from 69.3 million tons in 2000, 33.2 million tons in 1990, and 14.5 million tons in 1980. (These amounts do not include backyard composting.)
Increasing recycling provides tangible benefits. Recycling not only reduces the waste that ends up in our landfills. Recycling allows us to conserve vital natural resources. Recycling means cleaner land, air and water and overall better health.
Recycling cuts greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. For example, by recycling nearly 7 million tons of metals (including aluminum, steel and mixed metals), Americans eliminated greenhouse gas emissions totaling nearly 6.5 million metric tons of carbon equivalent, an amount equivalent to removing more than 5 million cars from the road for one year.
Recycling also helps Americans save money by reducing energy costs. For example, according to the National Recycling Coaltion:
- Recycling glass uses 40 percent less energy than is necessary to make new glass;
- It requires 40 percent less energy to make paper from recycled paper than it does to make paper from fresh lumber;
- Recycling steel requires 60 percent less energy than is necessary to make the new steel;
- Recycling plastics uses as much as 70 percent less energy than is necessary to make the same plastics; and
- Recycling aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than is necessary to make new aluminum.
America’s solid waste industry is committed to helping communities continue to increase their recycling rate:
- We continue to develop improved collection and sorting processes such as single-stream recycling, where everything—metal cans, glass and plastic bottles, newspaper and cardboard—goes into one bin with no need for you to sort. This kind of consumer-friendly and efficient method of recycling has increased recycling participation.
- We are also building bigger, more efficient recycling facilities with greater output by using advanced engineering and technology.
- And our companies continue to educate their customers on the benefits of recycling.
Want to learn more about what happens to waste after it is picked up from your home?
Is your family recycling everything that can be recycled? Want to recycle more?