US Recycling Stats and Ways to Improve

Different colored recycling bins for glass, plastic, paper, and metal


Environmental protection has been one of the major concerns in the US. Even as local governments push for more recycling programs that benefit the community and the environment; there is still a long way to go. Recycling is one of the most important ways for us to reach sustainability and better protect the environment. Even though the recycling process has been made very easy and convenient for most people, there is still a major issue of many people still failing to recycle properly.

This blog is aimed at helping you learn more about the current status of recycling in the US and to provide you with additional information on the recycling process. The article is broken down into two sections, current recycling statistics in the US and how to improve upon them.

Status of Recycling in the US

Realizing the importance of recycling is the main motivation for people to recycle, and there is nothing more than cold hard data facts that can get people's attention and make them aware of the importance of recycling.

The most recent report from the EPA the US has a recycling rate of only 35.2%. Surprisingly lead-acid batteries have the highest recycling rate at 99%. Yard trimmings, paper, and paperboard have a recycling rate of about 69% and 66%. Glass and plastics only have a 27% and 8% recycling rate respectively. Although it seems like we are doing great in some areas of recycling, there is still a long way to go especially in the area of glass and plastics recycling. The total waste send to landfills in the last year was about 367.8 million tons, which is about 4.51 pounds per person per day in the US. Yet, only 67 million tons were recycled and 27 million tons were composted, which leaves a lot of room for improvement.

There is another issue with the recycling process. The very system that made recycling easier is also leading to an inefficient recycling process. Single-stream recycling, the process of mixing all of your recyclables together into one bin, has led to increased recycling rates due to its ease. However since the majority of people are unfamiliar with what exactly can and cannot be recycled, and the fact that there is no uniformity so different towns have different lists of what can be recycled there is a lot of waste ending up in the recycling stream. This waste, which cannot currently be recycled, puts a strain on the machines and staff that sort the materials. Leading to lower quality finished products as well as some recyclable material ending up in the landfill with the waste taken out of the recycling system.

Besides raising awareness of recycling and contributing to recycling, it is also important to provide proper education to the next generation. Recycling is not a short-term solution, but a long-term goal that requires everyone in society to contribute to this goal. The EPA also sets up the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle program and provides resources for students and educators. With such dedication toward future education on recycling, it is very likely that the recycling rate will continue on a rising trend. One person's wasting behavior can cost more than another person's recycling behavior. Our goal is not only to contribute to recycling but also to get more people to join us. Together we can achieve a zero-waste goal.

A leaf growing out of a lightbulb showing US recycling statistics

What We Can Do to Further Improve Recycling Rates

Understandably, the current situation and recycling rates can be frustrating. Yet, this could also be the motivation people need to engage more in the recycling process and contribute to making a real difference. This section will help you to understand the correct way to recycle and where and who you can consult for help if you have any questions regarding the recycling process.

Reach out to your local government

The best way to learn about how to improve recycling in your area is by reaching out directly to your local town hall. No two recycling facilities are built the same way, and each has different capabilities. Your local town hall should be able to inform you about what types of recyclables are acceptable for curbside pickup in your area. They will also help you learn about special recycling and hazardous waste drives to further help keep our environment clean.

At Sourgum Waste, we can also help you find out more about recycling in your local area. We are working extensively to build out a database that will answer any and all questions you could have about waste and recycling in your area. You can check out our services page to see if we cover your area. If you don't see your town, don't worry, you can contact us at any time and our team will put in the work to get your questions answered for you. Even if we don't service your area we can get you the information you need.

Make sure you know what can and cannot be recycled

After consulting with your local government you should have a good idea of what can and cannot be recycled. You can also check out some of our other posts on Recycling Glass Products and Simple Recycling Guide for more information.

Although the ideal goal for recycling is to recycle as much as possible, there are currently situations where we cannot recycle certain materials due to their nature. Before you just throw your nonrecyclable items into the trash, first make sure that they can even go into your household trash bin or dumpster rental. Certain materials like paints or light bulbs contain harmful chemicals or materials that could react with each other and potentially cause a flame or explosion. If you carelessly place these materials into the recycling or trash bin with other materials, you are actually doing more harm than good. So before you throw anything away, make sure you have separated the household hazard waste HHW from everything else. You can check the EPA website on Household Hazard Waste to better identify these dangerous materials.

Let professionals help

Recycling can be confusing with just the daily trash you generate. After a large event or construction job where tons of trash are produced, hiring a group of professionals to do the recycling work might be the best option.

There are many organizations that provide help with recycling and environmental protection. Habitat ReStore helps people to deal with the leftover materials from home renovation projects and reuse and recycle these materials to help more people while also protecting the environment. There are also companies like Sourgum Waste that specialize in diverting waste from landfills and increasing recycling rates. We work closely with local governments to ensure that we are going above and beyond the local recycling policy.

Have a lot of recyclables?

If you have a lot of recyclables from an office or warehouse cleanout, a roll off dumpster rental is a perfect way to handle properly recycling your waste. In most areas, you do not need to worry about separating different recyclable materials from each other and all recyclable items can be mixed into the dumpster. The dumpster will then be taken to a single-stream recycling facility where each material will be mechanically sorted into the proper category and sent to reprocessing facilities. If you choose to go with Sourgum Waste, on top of great service and a dedicated team that is here for you 7 days a week, we plant a tree for every dumpster rented to offset the carbon emissions from operating disposal equipment.

Looking for environmentally friendly waste services?

Sourgum Waste not only provides you with the best service at the best price, but we are also committed to sustainability. We divert waste from landfills whenever possible and plant a tree for every order placed through us.

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