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.