State of the Municipal Waste Union

Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 2009 data for municipal solid waste generation and recycling. Municipal solid waste (MSW) consists of all the trash and garbage we give to our local trash haulers. The EPA's annual MSW report aggregates this trash data nationwide. The agency's report thus serves as a kind of "Waste and Recycling State of the Union" for those in the profession and for anyone who cares about how much waste we generate as a nation. The full report is available for download at the EPA website.

Overall, 243 million tons of MSW was generated in the United States in 2009—eight million tons less than that of 2008. MSW generation in 2009 declined to 4.34 pounds per person per day. This is a decrease of 4 percent from 2008. Nevertheless, the percentage of this material that ended up in landfills remained about the same at 54.3% (the 2008 figure was 54%)

Textile Recycling Rate Unchanged

An estimated 12.7 million tons of textiles were generated in 2009 or 5.2 percent of total MSW generation. Generation of clothing and footwear was estimated to be 9.1 million tons (3.7 percent of total MSW). The recovery rate for all textiles was 14.9 percent in 2009 (1.9 million tons), which is approximately the same rate as previous years. The EPA report also cites the Council for Textile Recycling, which reports that 1.3 million tons of clothing were recovered for recycling in 2009, or about 14 percent.