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Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling

Nondurable Goods: Product-Specific Data

The Department of Commerce defines nondurable goods as products with a lifetime of less than three years. EPA followed this definition to the greatest extent possible for this analysis.

EPA measures the generation, recycling, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling of nondurable goods. For more comprehensive information on this category of municipal solid waste (MSW), see the 2018 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page.

On this page:


Overview of Nondurable Goods

This is a picture of some nondurable goods on a wooden table, include white, plastic spoons and knives; yellow, plastic forks; white and orange paper and plastic plates; and plastic cups that are clear, white, red and blue.Products made of paper and paperboard comprise the largest portion of nondurable goods. Other nondurable products include paper and plastic plates, cups and other disposable food service products, disposable diapers, clothing and footwear, linens, and other miscellaneous products.

Generation of nondurable goods in MSW was 50.4 million tons in 2018 (17.3 percent of total generation). The recycling of nondurable paper products in this category was quite significant, resulting in the total nondurable goods recovery of 14.2 million tons in 2018 (28.1 percent of nondurables generation). Additionally, the combustion of nondurable goods was 7.1 million tons (20.5 percent of total combustion with energy recovery), and landfills received 29.2 million tons (19.9 percent of total landfilling) in 2018.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of all nondurable goods generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on All Nondurable Goods in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 17,330 25,060 34,420 52,170 64,010 63,650 53,250 51,810 50,700 50,440
Recycled 2,390 3,730 4,670 8,800 17,560 19,770 19,190 16,190 16,290 14,190
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 90 580 7,380 9,000 7,980 6,030 6,960 6,720 7,090
Landfilled 14,940 21,240 29,170 35,990 37,450 35,900 28,030 28,660 27,690 29,160

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Paper and Paperboard Products

This is a graph on overall non-packaging paper waste management, spanning the years 1960 to 2018. This graph is measured in tons, and shows how much waste was recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.EPA estimated in 2018 that the generation of paper and paperboard nondurable products was 26 million tons. This statistic includes many different paper and paperboard product categories. The data in the table to the right are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of overall non-packaging paper waste generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

The category with the highest rate of recovery was newspapers, but the recycling of other paper products, such as books, magazines, office papers, directories, marketing mail and other commercial printing also occurred, and the overall recycling rate for paper in nondurables was 47.4 percent in 2018. The amount of paper in nondurables combusted for energy recovery in 2018 was 2.6 million tons, and landfills received 10.8 million tons that year.  

With the exception of newspapers/mechanical papers recovery, there was very little documentation on the recovery of other nondurable paper by individual products. Industry-provided, nondurable goods-recovered paper estimates are presented as a total for books, magazines, office-type papers, standard mail and other commercial printing. Total recovery (excluding newspapers/mechanical papers) was about 8.8 million tons, or 43.1 percent of nondurable goods paper generation in 2018.

Information on specific types of nondurable, paper and paperboard products can be found in the subsections below or in Tables 5 and 18 through 21 of the 2018 Data Tables.

Newspapers/Mechanical Papers

Newspapers/mechanical papers are the largest single component of the paper products in the nondurable goods category, with 5.1 million tons generated in 2018 (1.7 percent of total MSW). EPA estimated that the amount of recycled newspapers/mechanical papers was 3.3 million tons in 2018. Since 2010, EPA expanded the category of “Newspapers” (including newsprint and groundwood* inserts) to include directories and other mechanical papers previously counted as the category of “Other Commercial Printing.”

*Groundwood papers, like newsprint, are made primarily from pulp prepared by a mechanical process. The nature of the pulp (groundwood versus chemical) affects the potential uses for recycled paper.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of newspapers/mechanical papers generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Newspapers/Mechanical Papers in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 7,110 9,510 11,050 13,430 14,790 12,790 9,880 6,730 5,440 5,050
Recycled 1,820 2,250 3,020 5,110 8,720 9,360 7,070 4,790 4,180 3,270
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 30 160 1,420 1,180 620 500 380 250 350
Landfilled 5,290 7,230 7,870 6,900 4,890 2,810 2,310 1,560 1,010 1,430

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

Books

Books made of groundwood and chemical pulp amounted to approximately 690,000 tons, or 0.2 percent of total MSW generation in 2018. There is very little additional data available on books.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of books generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Books in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - - 970 1,240 1,100 990 800 700 690
Recycled - - - 100 240 270 - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combusted with Energy Recovery - - - 150 190 150 - - - -
Landfilled - - - 720 810 680 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

 A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

*Note: Data for the waste management of books is only available from 1990-2005.

Magazines

Magazines are predominantly made of coated groundwood, but some uncoated groundwood and chemical pulps are also used. Magazines accounted for an estimated 980,000 tons, or 0.3 percent of total MSW generation in 2018. There is very little additional data available on magazines.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of magazines generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Magazines in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - - 2,830 2,230 2,580 1,590 1,190 1,020 980
Recycled - - - 300 710 960 - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 430 290 290 - - - -
Landfilled - - - 2,100 1,230 1,330 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

*Note: Data for the waste management of standard mail is only available from 1990-2005.

Office-Type Papers

Offices generate many different kinds of papers. For this report, office-type paper estimates include high-grade papers such as copier paper, computer printout, and stationery. Generation of these office papers was about four million tons, or 1.4 percent of total MSW generation in 2018. These types of papers are almost entirely made of uncoated chemical pulp, although some amounts of groundwood are also used. Some locations, other than offices, generate these office-type papers, including homes and institutions such as schools, while EPA measures other kinds of papers (e.g., newspapers, magazines and packaging) that offices generate in other categories. There is very little additional data available on office-type papers.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of office-type paper generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Office-Type Papers in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 1,520 2,650 4,000 6,410 7,420 6,620 5,260 4,530 3,970 3,970
Recycled 250 710 870 1,700 4,090 4,110 - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 10 60 800 650 460 - - - -
Landfilled 1,270 1,930 3,070 3,910 2,680 2,050 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

*Note: Data for the waste management of standard mail is only available from 1970-2005.

Marketing Mail

Marketing mail includes catalogs and other direct bulk mailings. These amounted to an estimated 3.7 million tons, or 1.3 percent of MSW generation, in 2018. Marketing mail includes paper made with both groundwood and chemical pulps.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of standard mail generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Marketing Mail in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - - 3,820 5,570 5,830 4,340 4,050 3,790 3,670
Recycled - - - 200 1,830 2,090 - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 620 730 680 - - - -
Landfilled - - - 3,000 3,010 3,060 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

Tissue Paper and Towels

The generation of tissue paper and towels includes facial and sanitary tissues and table napkins, but not bathroom tissue, which goes directly into the wastewater treatment system. Other examples include decorative and laminated tissue papers and crepe papers. Homes, restaurants, other commercial establishments and institutions such as hospitals use tissue papers. Tissue paper and towels (not including bathroom tissue) amounted to 3.8 million tons (1.3 percent of total MSW generation) in 2018. EPA did not identify any significant recovery of tissue products for recycling, although some composting of these items exists. There is very little additional data available for tissue papers and towels.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of tissue paper and towels generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Tissue Paper and Towels in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 1,090 2,080 2,300 2,960 3,220 3,460 3,490 3,680 3,750 3,790
Recycled - - - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion for Energy Recovery - 10 50 500 620 630 - - - -
Landfilled 1,090 2,070 2,250 2,460 2,600 2,830 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

*Note: Data for the waste management of tissue paper and paper towels is only available from 1960-2005.

Paper Plates and Cups

Paper plates and cups include paper plates, cups, bowls and other food service products used in homes, in commercial establishments like restaurants, as well as in institutional settings such as schools. EPA estimated that the generation of these products was 1.4 million tons (0.5 percent of total MSW generation) in 2018. EPA did not identify any significant recovery for recycling of these products, although there is some composting of these items.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of paper plates and cups generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Paper Plates and Cups in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 270 420 630 650 960 1,160 1,350 1,360 1,440 1,420
Recycled - - - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 10 110 190 210 - - - -
Landfilled 270 420 620 540 770 950 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

Other Non-Packaging Paper

Other non-packaging papers—including posters, photographic papers, cards and games—accounted for 3.9 million tons (1.3 percent of total MSW generation) in 2018. EPA did not identify any significant recycling of these papers.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of other non-packaging paper generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Other Non-Packaging Paper in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 2,700 3,630 4,230 3,840 4,250 4,490 4,190 3,700 3,880 3,920
Recycled 40 110 - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 10 80 650 820 820 - - - -
Landfilled 2,660 3,510 4,150 3,190 3,430 3,670 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

Other Commercial Printing

Other commercial printing includes a wide range of paper items, including brochures, reports, menus and invitations. Both groundwood and chemical pulps can be found in these varied items. Generation was two million tons, or 0.7 percent of MSW generation in 2018.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of other commercial printing generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Other Commercial Printing in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 1,260 2,130 3,120 4,460 7,380 6,440 2,480 2,080 1,960 2,000
Recycled 130 340 350 700 810 1,440 - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 10 60 640 1,270 910 - - - -
Landfilled 1,130 1,780 2,710 3,120 5,300 4,090 - - - -

Source: American Forest & Paper Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

*Note: Data for the waste management of other commercial printing paper is only available from 1960-2005.

 

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Plastic Plates and Cups

This category includes plastic plates, cups, glasses, dishes and bowls, hinged containers, and other containers used in food service at home, in restaurants and other commercial establishments, and in institutional settings such as schools. These items were primarily composed of polystyrene resin. Out of total MSW generation in 2018, these products comprised an estimated one million tons, or 0.4 percent of all MSW. EPA did not identify any significant recycling in 2018. See Table 18 in the 2018 Data Tables for more in-depth information.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of plastic plates and cups generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Plastic Plates and Cups in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - 190 650 870 930 890 1,050 1,080 1,030
Recycled - - - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 110 170 170 160 210 210 200
Landfilled - - 190 540 700 760 730 840 870 830

Source: American Chemistry Council

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Trash Bags

This category includes plastic trash bags made of high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene for both indoor and outdoor use. Out of total MSW generation in 2018, generation of plastic trash bags amounts to about 1.2 million tons, or 0.4 percent. EPA did not identify any significant recycling in 2018.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of trash bags generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Trash Bags in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - - 780 850 1,060 980 1,130 1,140 1,230
Recycled - - - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 130 160 190 170 220 220 240
Landfilled - - - 650 690 870 810 910 920 990

Source: American Chemistry Council

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Disposable Diapers

This category includes estimates of both infant diapers and adult incontinence products. EPA estimated generation using data on sales of the products along with information on average weights and composition. The estimated generation of disposable diapers in 2018 was 4.1 million tons, which was 1.4 percent of total MSW generation that year. (This tonnage includes an adjustment for the urine and feces contained within the discarded diapers). The materials portion of the diapers includes wood pulp, plastics (including the super-absorbent materials now present in most diapers), and tissue paper. EPA did not identify any significant recycling or composting of disposable diapers in 2018.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of disposable diapers generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Disposable Diapers in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - 350 1,930 2,700 3,230 3,410 3,700 4,170 4,150 4,100
Recycled - - - - - - - - - -
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 30 460 630 620 650 810 810 800
Landfilled - 350 1,900 2,240 2,600 2,790 3,050 3,360 3,340 3,300

Source: EDANA (2015) Sustainability Report, 4th Edition.

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Clothing and Footwear

EPA estimates that the generation of clothing and footwear was 13 million tons in 2018 (4.4 percent of total MSW). Textiles, rubber and leather are the major material components of this category, with some plastics present as well. Using information from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel, along with the Council for Textile Recycling, EPA estimated that the amount of clothing and footwear recycled in 2018 was 1.7 million tons (13.0 percent recycling rate). (Reuse occurs before generation and is not included in the generation or recycling estimates).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of clothing and footwear generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Clothing and Footwear in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 1,360 1,620 2,170 4,010 6,470 7,890 9,100 11,940 12,800 12,970
Recycled 50 60 150 520 900 1,250 1,250 1,690 1,740 1,690
Composted - - - - - - - -    
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 10 50 590 1,080 1,210 1,390 2,010 2,160 2,210
Landfilled 1,310 1,550 1,970 2,900 4,490 5,430 6,460 8,240 8,900 9,070

Sources: American Apparel & Footwear Association, American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS) and International Trade Commission.

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Towels, Sheets and Pillowcases

EPA estimated that 1.5 million tons of towels, sheets and pillowcases were generated in 2018, using a methodology similar to that for clothing. The export or recycling of these textiles amounted to 240,000 tons in 2018 (15.8 percent recycling rate).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of towels, sheets and pillowcases generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Towels, Sheets and Pillowcases in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation - - - 710 820 980 1,290 1,350 1,470 1,520
Recycled - - - 120 140 170 220 220 240 240
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 100 130 150 190 220 240 250
Landfilled - - - 490 550 660 880 910 990 1,030

 A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Other Miscellaneous Nondurable Goods

Generation of other miscellaneous nondurable goods was 4.1 million tons, or 1.4 percent, of total MSW in 2018. The primary material component of miscellaneous nondurables is plastics, although some aluminum, rubber and textiles are also present. Typical products in miscellaneous nondurable goods include items such as shower curtains and other household items, disposable medical supplies, and novelty items.

Each year, the American Chemistry Council publishes information taken from resin sales data on the generation of plastic products in miscellaneous nondurables. EPA based its estimates of the generation of other materials in these nondurable products on information provided in past reports in EPA’s Facts and Figures series.

In 2018, about 4.1 million tons of other miscellaneous nondurable goods waste was produced. Of this total, about 4.4 percent was recycled, while 18.5 percent was combusted with energy recovery and 77.1 percent was sent to landfills.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of other miscellaneous nondurable goods generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2018 Data on Other Miscellaneous Nondurable Goods in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 100 200 1,410 3,340 4,030 4,250 3,720 4,050 4,110 4,100
Recycled - - - - - - - 160 220 180
Composted - - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 20 570 780 770 660 750 750 760
Landfilled 100 200 1,390 2,770 3,250 3,480 3,060 3,140 3,140 3,160

 A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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