Department of Ecology News Release - December 14, 2011

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State’s recycling rate increased in 2010

OLYMPIA – Washington state’s recycling rate grew to its highest level ever, reaching 49 percent in 2010, according to data reported today by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). A 1989 Washington state law set a statewide recycling goal of 50 percent. The national average was 34 percent in 2010.

Washington residents are recycling more and throwing away less. The total amount of municipal waste recycled by state residents increased by more than 540,000 tons in 2010, up 14 percent from 2009. The total amount of waste disposed from households and businesses has been decreasing through the recession, and in 2010 that trend continued. Disposal dropped by about 65,000 tons or 1 percent in 2010.

The amount of waste diverted from disposal declined slightly from 54.8 percent in 2009 to 54.3 percent in 2010. This is because we are disposing of construction and demolition related materials that could be recycled. While the amount of construction and demolition related materials diverted from landfills increased, even more was disposed, causing the overall diversion rate to go down.

Laurie Davies, Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program manager said: “Our program has increasingly focused on keeping these materials out of landfills by following the statewide solid and hazardous waste plan that’s called Beyond Waste. However, we continue to struggle with declining staff resources to carry out our state plan.”

Ecology’s data showed that 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. Less aluminum and paper were collected for recycling in 2010 than in previous years.

Recycling in Washington continues to result in important environmental gains. In 2010, recycling materials instead of sending them to landfills helped us avoid emitting 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Also, recycling saved 160 trillion British thermal units of energy. This is equivalent to conserving 1.3 billion gallons of gasoline – enough to power 1.5 million homes for a year (over half the households in Washington).

“Reducing and recycling waste have economic, environmental and public health benefits for our state’s residents,” Davies said. “It protects our water, reduces our exposure to toxic chemicals which lowers health risks, and can build a clean, green economy for Washington’s future.”

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Media Contacts:

Kathy Davis, media relations, 360-407-6149, kathy.davis@ecy.wa.gov

Gretchen Newman, Waste 2 Resources, 360-407-6097, gretchen.newman@ecy.wa.gov 

For more information:

Solid Waste and Recycling Data  (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/solidwastedata/)

Locations for recycling  (http://1800recycle.wa.gov)

Ecology’s social media  (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)