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Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling

Nonferrous Metals: Material-Specific Data

Nonferrous metals such as lead, copper and zinc are found in durable products, including appliances and consumer electronics. Other than aluminum, lead in lead-acid batteries is the most prevalent nonferrous metal in municipal solid waste (MSW). In this analysis, EPA only includes lead-acid batteries from passenger cars, trucks and motorcycles but does not include lead-acid batteries used in large equipment or industrial applications.

This web page is a summary of nonferrous metal material-specific data. For more comprehensive information, see the 2015 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page.

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Overview

EPA measures the generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling of nonferrous metals in MSW.

This is a picture of a green battery in the shape of a box. The background of this picture is black.The generation of nonferrous metals in MSW totaled 2.2 million tons in 2015. Lead in batteries accounted for approximately 1.5 million tons of this amount. As a percentage of total generation, nonferrous metals were less than 1 percent in 2015.

Recycling of nonferrous metals was approximately 1.5 million tons in 2015, with recycling being due to lead recovered from batteries. In 2015, the estimated amount of recycled battery lead was about 99 percent.

The total amount of nonferrous metal material in MSW that was combusted in 2015 was 60,000 tons. This was 0.2 percent of total MSW combustion with energy recovery that year.

Landfills received 660,000 tons of MSW nonferrous metals in 2015. This was 0.5 percent of all MSW landfilled that year.

Please see the EPA Methodology Document for further information on estimating the generation and management of nonferrous metals.

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Summary Table and Graph

The data below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of nonferrous metals generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Nonferrous Metals in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation 180 670 1,160 1,100 1,600 1,860 2,020 2,230 2,220
Recycled - 320 540 730 1,060 1,280 1,440 1,550 1,500
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 20 60 50 50 60 50 60
Landfilled 180 350 600 310 490 530 520 630 660

Sources: Battery Council International, Census Bureau, and the National Automobile Dealers Association (for the lead-acid battery portion of nonferrous metals)

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

This is a graph on nonferrous metal waste management, spanning the years 1960 to 2015. This graph is measured in tons, and shows how much waste was recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery, and landfilled.

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