Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)—more commonly known as trash or garbage—consists of everyday items we use and then throw away, such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries. This comes from our homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses.
Each year EPA produces a report called Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013, formerly called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. It includes information on MSW generation, recycling, and disposal.
After 30 years of tracking MSW, the report has been expanded to include additional information on source reduction (waste prevention) of MSW, information on historical landfill tipping fees for MSW, and information on construction and demolition debris generation, which is outside of the scope of MSW.
The new name also emphasizes the importance of sustainable materials management (SMM). SMM refers to the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable ways across their entire life cycle. SMM practices conserve resources, reduce wastes, slow climate change and minimize the environmental impacts of the materials we use.
In 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.3 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.40 pounds per person per day (Figure 1 and Figure 2).
EPA encourages practices that reduce the amount of waste needing to be disposed of, such as waste prevention, recycling, and composting.