The U.S. recycling rate dipped from 24.9% in 2017 to 23.6% in 2018, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Advancing Sustainable Materials Management report, which it released in November.
Although U.S. residents recycled approximately 69 million tons of material—a modest boost from the approximately 67 million tons recycled in 2017—they generated 292 million tons in overall waste, compost, or recyclable material, an increase of more than 23 million tons.
The containers and packaging product category had the highest recycling rate in 2018, at 53.8%, the EPA says, with paper products, steel, and aluminum among the most recycled of those items. U.S. residents recycled nondurable goods, including mainly paper products, at a rate of 28.1%. They recycled durable goods at a rate of 18.5%.
Overall, paper and paperboard remain the largest component of recycled material, at 67% of total volume, with metals the second-largest component, at 12.6%. Glass, plastic, rubber, textiles, and leather make up less than 15% of the volume recycled. Some potentially recyclable materials made their way into the landfill in large volumes: Paper and paperboard were 23.1% of the material landfilled; plastics were 12.2%; rubber, textiles, or leather were 8.9%; metals were 8.8%; and glass was 4.2%.
The most recycled product was lead-acid batteries, which had a 99% recycling rate in 2018, the EPA says. Residents also recycled 96% of corrugated boxes and 70.9% of steel cans. Visit www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/advancing-sustainable-materials-management.