Wash. recycling rate holds steady

Washington’s recycling rate stayed level in 2009, at 45 percent, according to data reported by the Washington Department of Ecology. A 1989 Washington state law established a statewide recycling goal of 50 percent. The national average was 33 percent in 2008.

The total amount of municipal waste generated by state residents fell by over 700,000 tons in 2009, or about 8 percent from last year. The recession has affected the amount of waste produced, driving both disposal and recycling down.

Overall waste diverted from disposal rose to the highest amount ever — 55 percent in 2009. This is because we are diverting more construction and demolition related materials than we are disposing. Asphalt and concrete accounted for 72 percent of the increase in diversion from landfilling.

Ecology’s data showed that recycling rates increased for organic materials such as food scraps, electronics, and nonferrous metals. Materials disposed from the construction, demolition and organics sectors declined in 2009 by more than 1 million tons.

“We’re pleased to see success around those materials being recycled that are specifically targeted by our statewide solid and hazardous waste plan, Beyond Waste,” said Laurie Davies, Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program manager. “Our program has increasingly focused on keeping these materials out of landfills.”

Recycling in Washington continues to result in important environmental gains. In 2009, recycling materials instead of sending them to landfills helped us avoid emitting 2.8 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Also, recycling saved 132 billion British thermal units of energy. This is equivalent to conserving 1 billion gallons of gasoline – enough to power more than 1 million homes for a year.

While the tons collected in the recycling system is staying steady, a report by Ecology in June 2010 indicates that a certain amount of the residential commingled recycling does not end up being recycled. Between 5 and 20 percent of some materials may not ultimately be recycled into new products. Such materials are either materials that the market cannot recycle yet and are collected anyway, or don’t make it through the sorting system to the appropriate market.

“This economic recession continues to be difficult for our state, and especially those struggling to make ends meet,” Davies said. “However, it has put a new emphasis on thrift, re-use and waste reduction. With continued education and innovative solutions, we hope to capitalize on this momentum, even as the economy improves.”