Special Collections Event May 3&4, Erickson All Sports Facility, 8am to 2pm

Recycling

Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as globally.

Benefits of Recycling

Family Recycling
  • Recycling protects and expands US manufacturing jobs and increases US competitiveness.
  • Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
  • Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
  • Recycling saves energy.
  • Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
  • Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

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Steps to Recycling a Product

Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, manufacturing raw materials into new products, and purchasing recycled products.

Collecting and processing secondary materials, manufacturing recycled-content products, and then buying recycled products creates a circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling.

Step 1. Collection and Processing
Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.

Regardless of the method used to collect the recyclables, the next leg of their journey is usually the same. Recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.

Step 2. Manufacturing
Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials also are used in innovative applications such as recovered glass in roadway asphalt (glassphalt) or recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.

Step 3. Purchasing Recycled Products
Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products. Learn more about recycling terminology and to find tips on identifying recycled products.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/recycle.htm


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Total MSW Generation, 2010: 250 Million Tons (before recycling)

This pie chart depicts the percentage by which different materials contribute to the municipal solid waste stream. The breakdown is as follows:

 

2010 Total MSW Generation (by Material)
  • Paper: 28.5%
  • Food Scraps: 13.9%
  • Yard Trimmings: 13.4%
  • Plastics: 12.4%
  • Metals: 9.0%
  • Rubber, Leather, and Textiles: 8.4%
  • Wood: 6.4%
  • Glass: 4.6%
  • Other: 3.4%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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MSW Generation Rates, 1960-2010

This line graph indicates the rate by which per capita generation of waste (in pounds per person per day) and total waste generation (in million tons) has increased from 1960 to 2010. 

MSW Generation Rates, 1960-2010

 

  • In 1960, the per capita generation of waste was 2.68 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 88.1 million tons.
  • In 1965, the per capita generation of waste was 2.96 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 104.4 million tons.
  • In 1970, the per capita generation of waste was 3.25 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 121.1 million tons.
  • In 1975, the per capita generation of waste was 3.25 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 127.8 million tons.
  • In 1980, the per capita generation of waste was 3.66 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 151.6 million tons.
  • In 1985, the per capita generation of waste was 3.83 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 166.3 million tons.
  • In 1990, the per capita generation of waste was 4.57 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 208.3 million tons.
  • In 1995, the per capita generation of waste was 4.52 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 217.3 million tons.
  • In 2000, the per capita generation of waste was 4.72 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 242.5 million tons. 
  • In 2005, the per capita generation of waste was 4.67 pounds per person per day, and total waste generation was 252.7 million tons. 
  • In 2010, the per capita generation of waste was 4.43 pounds per person per day and total waste generation was 249.9 million tons.

 

 

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MSW Recycling Rates, 1960-2010

This line graph depicts waste recycling rates in the U.S. from 1960 to 2010, in both percentage and tons.MSW Recycling Rates, 1960-2010

  • In 1960, the recycling rate was 6.4%, and 5.6 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 1965, the recycling rate was 6.2%, and 6.5 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 1970, the recycling rate was 6.6%, and 8.0 million tons of materials were recycled. 
  • In 1975, the recycling rate was 7.3%, and 9.3 million tons of materials were recycled. 
  • In 1980, the recycling rate was 9.6%, and 14.5 million tons of materials were recycled. 
  • In 1985, the recycling rate was 10.1%, and 16.7 million tons of materials were recycled. 
  • In 1990, the recycling rate was 16.0%, and 33.2 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 1995, the recycling rate was 25.7%, and 55.8 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 2000, the recycling rate was 28.6%, and 69.5 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 2005, the recycling rate was 31.6% and 79.9 million tons of materials were recycled.
  • In 2010, the recycling rate was 34.1% and 85.1 million tons of materials were recycled.

 

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Recycling Rates of Selected Materials, 2010

This bar graph depicts the recycling rates of selected materials in 2010. The recycling rates are as follows:

Recycling Rates of Selected Products, 2010
  • Auto Batteries: 96.2%
  • Newspapers/Mechanical Papers: 71.6%
  • Steel Cans: 67.0%
  • Yard Trimmings: 57.5%
  • Aluminum Beer and Soda Cans: 49.6%
  • Tires: 35.5%
  • Glass Containers: 33.4% 
  • PET Bottles and Jars: 29.2%
  • HDPE Natural (White Translucent) Bottles: 27.5%

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Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency.