All That We Throw Away

Check out EPA’s new infographic: MSW in the United States.

How does your community or office measure up? Are you trying any new innovative approaches to reduce waste and increase recycling?

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Kim Truong

Thanks for sharing! It’s also useful to note what items can be recycled, which can be slightly different depending on the city. For example, accepted items for residential recycling in DC is noted here.

Henry Brown

Houston Tx. is starting to try something that seems to like it will make a difference in the amount of waste going to the landfill which may or not be applicable in other communities: They are using a single recycle container which includes all recyclable material and the city takes it to a recycle center where it is sorted and recycled. Start up costs are relatively high but it is estimated that there will be mega-million dollar savings and or at least in cost-avoidance

Jeremy Ames

That’s great Henry. Single-stream can be difficult to implement but usually increases the recycling rate significantly.

Thanks Kim and Andrew, though the credit really goes to my EPA college Felicia Chou. Great point Kim, always very important to check with your local recycling guidelines before you put anything in the bin.

Elizabeth Fischer Laurie

My home had single stream recycling when I lived in St. Louis, and it was fantastic. We usually threw away one tiny trash bag once a week for our two-person household. The convenience just could not be beat. When we lived in Dallas, TX last year we had to take our recycling to a bin at a local library and sort ourselves. It was so much more challenging to stick with it, and it was obvious our neighbors in our apartment complex did not share our dedication. The piles of trash were so large on pick up day — it always made me sad. My time there makes me grateful that there is a bigger focus on recycling here in DC. We are again back to one teeny bag of trash every now and again.

Karen "Kari" Uhlman

Thank you for the infographic Jeremy! Perhaps the County of Sacramento can incorporate some of this on our website or marketing materials.

Municipal solid waste (MSW), commonly known as trash or garbage (US), refuse or rubbish (UK) is a waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. Recyclable packaging, food scraps, grass clippings, etc. are not considered MSW. The County of Sacramento accepts aluminum cans, all colors of bfood and beverage containers, and margarine tubs as acceptable recyclable materials. See our Recycling is Easy! flyer below or our website sacgreenteam.com for more details.

I agree with Elizabeth Fischer Laurie, our two-person household also generates one small bag of MSW per week while recycling and composting our remaining waste.

In 1989, the State of California passed the California Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) which required jurisdictions to divert at least 50 percent of their solid waste (also known as garbage) from California landfills by 2000. The region that is monitored by Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority (SWA) currently meets this diversion mandate. In order to maintain and increase the 50 percent diversion rate, the SWA adopted and implemented a Business Recycling Ordinance requiring businesses to recycle in 2007.

On June 17, 2009, the Business Recycling Ordinance was amended to incorporate multi-family recycling requirements for multi-family dwellings such as apartments, condominiums, senior care facilities, etc. Single family dwelling residents have been active participants in a residential recycling program for over 15 years. Residents of multi-family dwellings now have the opportunity to actively participate in helping the SWA region meet recycling goals and protect valuable resources while significantly reducing the amount of solid waste being sent to landfills.

I wasn’t working for the Department of Waste Management & Recycling when we made the transition to Single Stream Recycling (SSR), so I am unaware if the residents curbside collection rates were increased. I am awaiting a response from my manager about that concern. I believe he worked here then. Thank you.

Scott Kearby

In Harford County MD we implemented single stream recycling a few years ago & saw a marked increase in our recycling rate. We also reduced our costs because single stream enabled us to contract with a large vendor who had the facilities to sort the stream into various components. I will pass the info graphic on to our recycling coordinator. Check out our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/HarfordCountyRecycling

Our recycling coordinator also will go out to local businesses to assist them by doing a recycling assessment to identify opportunities to reduce their waste stream and associated costs. This has improved participation in recycling as well.

Jeremy Ames

Agreed Elizabeth! Though I wish DC would collect recycling twice a week or make the bin bigger than the trash bin.

Please do use it Kari, that’s why we created it. Thanks for sharing Sacramento County’s recycling guide, very well done!

I love that the Hardford County recycling program has its own FB page Scott(and a pretty popular one at that).

Jeffrey J Kontur

Delaware Health and Social Services has recycle bins in every office and in all common areas, both for employees and constituents. We also have single-stream recycling. Nighttime janitorial staff empty all recycle bins and all trash cans in common areas. They DO NOT empty office trash cans. DHSS staff is responsible for emptying their own trash. (Janitorial staff does provide trash bags.) This policy has made a huge difference in recycle program participation.

Local management in my building allowed one of the employees, who is an avid gardener, to set up a private composting program. All coffee grounds, tea bags and food waste go into a bin set up in the break room.

Personally, I have a very small trash can that gets emptied maybe once every 3-4 months. That’s how little actual trash I generate!

P.S. I’m also a militant recycler and composter at home.