State’s recycling rate increases to highest level yet

December 20, 2011

By Staff

Washington’s recycling rate increased to the highest level ever on record last year, reaching 49 percent.

The information comes from a report released Dec. 14 from the state Department of Ecology. Officials said Washington residents recycled more and tossed less in the trash.

The total amount of municipal waste recycled by state residents increased by more than 540,000 tons last year — up 14 percent from 2009. The total amount of waste disposed from households and businesses decreased through the recession.

The trend continued in 2010 as disposal dropped by about 65,000 tons, or 1 percent.

The statewide recycling goal — established in a 1989 state law — is 50 percent. The national average for recycling last year reached 34 percent.

In Washington, the amount of waste diverted from disposal declined from 54.8 percent in 2009 to 54.3 percent last year. Officials said the decline resulted as construction- and demolition-related materials headed to landfills, rather then recycling facilities. Though the amount of construction and demolition related materials diverted from landfills increased, more headed to the trash, causing the overall diversion rate to decline.

Statewide, recycling rates increased for organic materials, plastics and electronics. Organic materials, such as wood waste, yard debris and food scraps, accounted for half of the increase in recycling. Haulers also collected less aluminum and paper for recycling in 2010 than in previous years.

Officials estimate the recycling helped the state avoid emitting 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and saved 160 trillion British thermal units of energy — or the equivalent of conserving 1.3 billion gallons of gasoline. The energy savings amount to enough to power 1.5 million homes for a year, or more than half of the households in Washington.

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