More Is Recycled, but There's Also More of It

It may be garbage to you, but it's 'municipal solid waste' to trash professionals. Here are highlights from a report on municipal solid waste prepared for the United States Environmental Protection Agency and released last month:

* 208 million tons of municipal solid waste were generated in the United States in 1995, down 1 million tons from 1994. (In 1960, it was 88 million tons.)

* The per-capita trash-generation rate was 4.3 pounds per person per day in 1995, down from 4.4 in 1994. If you subtract what's recycled, it's 3.2 pounds.

* Most of what the US throws away is paper, paperboard, and yard waste. Thirty-nine percent was paper and paperboard (81.5 million tons), 14.3 percent was yard waste (29.8 million tons). Americans also tossed 14 million tons of food (6.7 percent of all the trash).

* Most of what the US recycles is also paper, paperboard, and yard waste. Forty percent of paper waste was recycled in 1995 (33 million tons). Nine million tons of yard waste - 30 percent of it - were composted. The composting rate has doubled since 1992.

* The volume of US trash is expected to grow to 222 million tons by 2000. Containers and packaging will likely remain the biggest proportion: 36 percent by 2000.

* In 1995, 57 percent of all US municipal solid waste went to landfills, down from 60 percent the year before. Twenty-seven percent was recycled or composted (up from 25 percent), and 16 percent was burned.

* Note: The "landfill crisis" of the mid-1980s was largely a misperception. US landfills closed as more strict regulation came into force, and some worried that the nation was running disposal space. This was never the case, but the "crisis" did give a boost to recycling.

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