Packaging discards down, recovery up
In its report, “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States,”the EPA breaks down collection and recovery statistics for 2009, the last available year. Packaging reached a recovery rate of 47.8%, marking the fifth straight year of increase and a steady increase since 1960, when it stood at 10.3%.
2009 also was the third straight year of decline in terms of the total amount of packaging discarded. The total was 71.6 million tons, a 5.7% decline from 2008. Discarded packaging fell in every major material category, including paper and paperboard (an 8.6% decline from 2008), glass (a 3.9% decline), plastic (3.7%) and aluminum (2.1%).
In terms of recovery rates, the highest-scoring material was paper and paperboard, at 71.8%. Within that category, the highest recovery rate was for corrugated boxes, at 81.3%-probably because most of them are used by retailers and other businesses that are able and motivated to recycle.
Recovery rates for other materials are: glass, 31.1%; steel, 66.2%; aluminum, 37.5%; plastic, 13.7%. This represents an increase in the rate for every material except aluminum.