• Autism Speaks

Dec
14

Waste & Recycling News claims solid waste generation in the United States is on the rise

On December 13, 2011, Waste & Recycling News reported that solid waste generation was on the rise in 2010 for the first time since 2007.  They base these findings on the US EPA Municipal Solid Waste Facts and Figures for 2010 report.  However, closer examination of the data in the EPA reporting does not bear this out.

Data from 2007 and 2010 EPA Reports

  • Municipal solid waste generation in 2010 was 249.9 million tons. In 2007 it was 254.1 million tons.
  • Per capita waste generation in 2010 was 4.43 lb. per person per day. In 2007 it was 4.62 lb. per person per day.
  • In 2010 we recycled nearly 85 million tons of municipal solid waste in this country. In 2007 we recycled 63.3 million tons.
  • The national recycling rate in 2010 was 34%.  The national recycling rate in 2007 was 33.4%.
  • In 2007 the U.S. population was approximately 281.5 million. In 2010 that figure reached 308.7 million.

Conclusions

To claim that solid waste generation is on the rise in the United States is true only from the standpoint that there are more people in the U.S. today than there were four years ago and even then the raw data does not support this conclusion. Even though the population increased by approximately 27.2 million persons, each of those people actually generated less waste and recycled more of the waste they produced. In theory our waste generation should increase with the number of persons living within our borders. More people equals more trash.  The data, however, indicate that we are actually doing a better job of producing less and recycling more than we were only four years ago.

Waste & Recycling News did point out that our figures have improved from where they were in 2005, but I have to deny the validity of the remainder of their conclusions. Perhaps they were referring to all waste generation in the United States? But the report cited in their article only pertains to the municipal portion of the solid waste stream.

Resources

US EPA:

Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2007 Facts and Figures

 Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010

US Census Bureau

Waste & Recycling News: Waste Generation Back on the Rise Says the EPA, published Dec. 13, 2011

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