The moment we have been waiting for…the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its 2009 report of the US municipal solid waste stream (MSW).

In 2009, the US generated 243 million tons of solid waste, down from 251 million tons in 2008. Of this, 82 million tons were recycled, representing a recycling rate of 33.8%. Not great, but getting better.

What caught my eye were the rates for different recycled materials:

62.1% Paper/paperboard
59.9% Yard trimmings
34.5% Metals (rate would have been much lower if not for the law that requires recycling of lead-acid batteries – 96% of which were recycled in 2009).

The disturbing news was plastics recycling…7.1%

While the recovery rate for all plastics was low, PET bottles (#1) and jars were recovered at a rate of 28% in 2009 and recovery of HDPE bottles (#2) was estimated at 28.9%. The low plastics recovery rate isn’t because of lack of demand for recycled plastic. Many fewer curbside programs collect it and there’s been huge growth in water and other plastic bottles consumed outside the home where recycling isn’t available. Another reminder to skip the individual bottled water for events!


Now that you know the national data, how does your venue or event measure up? Can you brag about how many percentage points you are above the national average to your audience or guests? If not, these figures may give your organization its first goal toward being more sustainable.



Thanks to Sustainable Business for the full story