Americans Throw 76% of Their Recyclables Into the Trash

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It is no secret that recycling in America is broken: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the US has a combined recycling rate of only 32% for materials including glass, plastic, cardboard and paper. That figure reflects collections from industrial, commercial and residential trash.

But a new report that zeros in on residential recycling suggests that we are capturing far less material than that — at least at the household level.

The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit that works with major corporations to improve US recycling systems, says that if you look at houses and apartments alone, the national recycling rate is much closer to 21%, and 76% percent of residential recyclables are lost at the household level.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a comprehensive picture of the US residential recycling landscape,” said Keefe Harrison, the founder and chief executive officer of the Recycling Partnership. “We are seeing a recycling rate that is less than we’d wish it was. But it is only when you have a solid baseline that you can measure progress.”


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