Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), an affiliate of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Council of State Governments, devotes a portion of its web site to recycling measurement. NERC compiled detailed recycling data for Northeast states, including estimated rates that were calculated using EPAs translator method.
Use EPA's "translator" to quickly calculate a revised recycling rate based on the EPA standard methodology. The translator allows states and local governments who prefer to use their existing measurement methods to continue doing so. Users can save time and effort in comparing their recycling rates with others by using the translator worksheet to add and subtract materials according to the standard method. For those states and localities interested in tracking their progress over time, the translator also can be used to recalculate prior years' recycling rates.
To use the translator, you will need the following, all of which are contained in the guidance document:Worksheet A (PDF) (7 pp, 80K, About PDF)
Using your existing data when you fill in this worksheet will help you calculate a recycling rate based on EPAs standard methodology. The worksheet will help you subtract from your current recycling rate those waste management activities and waste materials that are outside the scope of the standard recycling rate. In addition, those waste materials and recycling activities not included in your current rate, but included in the standard rate and for which you have data, can be added using this worksheet. You will need the glossary, conversion factors table, and scope tables found below to complete the worksheet.
This glossary provides standard definitions for more than 100 terms from abatement debris to yard trimmings. Abiding by the definitions contained in this glossary is essential to achieving an "apples-to-apples" comparison of recycling rates with other states and localities.
Since some recycling and solid waste data are obtained by volume (e.g., cubic yards) and then converted to weight for recycling rate calculations, use of standard volume-to-weight conversion factors is an essential element of the recycling measurement method. In this chart, EPA provides conversion factors for everything from appliances to food scraps.
Tables A and B, the "scope" tables, are used in conjunction to help you understand what is included in the standard recycling rate and what is excluded. First, use Table A, Scope of Materials Included in the Standard MSW Recycling Rate, to identify which materials are defined as MSW and which materials are defined as other solid waste. The materials designated as MSW are included in both the recycling and waste generation totals of the standard recycling rate equation.
After you have determined which materials are included in the standard recycling rate, use Table B, Scope of Activities Included in the Standard MSW Recycling Rate, to further refine the scope based on whether the recycling of MSW materials found in Table A meets the standard definition of recycling outlined in Table B.
More information about the translator, including how two states have used it, can be found in "Striving for Consistency: Standardizing Recycling Measurements," published in BioCycle in January 1998.
Since some recycling and solid waste data are obtained by volume (e.g., cubic yards) and then converted to weight for recycling rate calculations, use of standard volume-to-weight conversion factors is an essential element of the recycling measurement method. In this section, EPA provides conversion factors for everything from food scraps to appliances.
EPA developed a number of documents to assist states and local governments with recycling measurement including:
This guidance document contains detailed information on the voluntary, standard methodology for measuring recycling rates developed by EPA. In addition to instructions, worksheets, and sample survey forms, the document provides real life examples, planning checklists, helpful hints and tips, a recommended timeline for developing a measurement program, a glossary of more than 100 terms, standard volume-to-weight conversion factors, and other useful tools.
This brochure provides a brief overview of EPA's voluntary, standard methodology for measuring recycling rates. It also contains a form for ordering the guidance document, Measuring Recycling: A Guide for State and Local Governments.
This article is for trade journals and organizations to use as a sample for publishing information about the EPA guidance document. You may use this sample newsletter article verbatim.Setting the Standard for Recycling Measurement", originally published in Resource Recycling magazine in September 1997, describes the development and mechanics of the standard measurement methodology. The second article, "Striving for Consistency: Standardizing Recycling Measurements," originally published in BioCycle magazine in January 1998, explains how to use Worksheet A (PDF) (7 pp, 80K, About PDF), provided in the guidance document, to recalculate your recycling rate according to the EPA method.
Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures
EPA publishes an annual report on the generation, recovery, and disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States, which is the basis for the MSW definition in the standard measurement method.
This report, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures, is a useful companion to the guidance document, since defining the scope (PDF) (5 pp, 56K, About PDF) of MSW in the same way it is defined in the characterization report ensures consistency among recycling rates. This study also provides a source of default values for waste generation that states can utilize in calculating a recycling rate, if necessary.