Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures

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Materials and Waste Management in the United States Key Facts and Figures

Each year EPA produces a report called Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures, formerly called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. It includes information on municipal solid waste (MSW) generation, recycling, and disposal. The 2013 report provides additional information on source reduction (waste prevention) of MSW, information on historical tipping fees for MSW, and information on the Construction and Demolition Debris generation, which is outside of the scope of MSW.

In 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.3 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.40 pounds per person per day.

bar graph depicting 2013 recycling rates of selected products such as lead-acid batteries and steel cans and a line graph showing total municipal solid waste recycling rates from 1960 to 2013Graphs depicting the recycling rates of selected products in 2013 and the MSW recycling rates from 1960 to 2013. Click image to view larger version.In 2013, America recovered about 67 percent (5.7 million tons) of newspaper/mechanical paper and about 60 percent of yard trimmings. Organic materials continue to be the largest component of MSW. Paper and paperboard account for 27 percent and yard trimmings and food account for another 28 percent. Plastics comprise about 13 percent; metals make up 9 percent; and rubber, leather, and textiles account for 9 percent. Wood follows at around 6 percent and glass at 5 percent. Other miscellaneous wastes make up approximately 3 percent of the MSW generated in 2013.

Recycling and composting prevented 87.2 million tons of material from being disposed in 2013, up from 15 million tons in 1980. Diverting these materials from landfills prevented the release of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air in 2013—equivalent to taking over 39 million cars off the road for a year.

To aid researchers, EPA hosts a collection of historic tables on municipal solid waste generation in America, as well as related scoping studies and research memos.

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U.S. State and Local Waste and Materials Characterization Reports

EPA maintains a list of state and local waste characterization studies; reports are not available for all states. You can search for your state in the table below.

For additions, changes or updates, please send new reports to Most reports exit EPA’s website.The following links exit the site Exit

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