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2022: The U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate Has Fallen to 5%-6%

The U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate Has Fallen to from 8.7% down to 6% or less. According to “The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate,” a report just released by The Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics the recycling rate for post-consumer plastic waste in the U.S. fell to 5 to 6%  for 2021. Meanwhile, they say the U.S. per capita generation of plastic waste has increased by 263% since 1980.

Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former U.S. E.P.A. Regional Administrator. says, "The plastics industry must stop lying to the public about plastics recycling. It does not work, it never will work, and no amount of false advertising will change that. Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, usage, and disposal of plastics,”

Paper and metal recycling is much higherRecycling Hewirarchy

Paper which is recycled at 66% (2020 figure per American Forest and Products Association). That's up from 21.3% in 1980.  Post-consumer paper, cardboard, and metals are recycled at much higher rates

94% of plastic waste is disposed of in landfills, burned in incinerators, or ends up polluting our ocean, waterways, and landscapes after being used just once, often for mere minutes.

Even the recycling process itself is inefficient. 30% of the collected PET bottle plastic material ends up being disposed during the recycling process.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) normally releases its updated yearly data on recycling rates on November 15th, National Recycling Day.

But since Biden took office, the EPA has not released updated recycling rates. The last report was released in November of 2020 and covered the rates for 2018. In that report, The EPA estimated that the plastics recycling rate in 2018 was 8.7 percent

You can read the entire The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate report here.

Background and historical data:Municipal Waste Trends and Recycling

Each year EPA releases the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Fact Sheet, formerly called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. It includes information on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation, recycling, composting, other food management, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling. The 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 fact sheets also include information on construction and demolition debris, which is outside of the scope of MSW. Data are in U.S. short tons unless specified.



2022: The U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate Has Fallen to 5%-6%