JUNE 14, 2016. Bill Moore of Moore & Associates and Peter Engel of Kessler Consulting announce the release of the white paper entitled: “Demystifying MSW Recycling Rates” that sheds light on “real” recovery rates of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States.

“With so much emphasis on recycling and diversion in the market right now, there is a huge amount of confusion and contradiction about recycling rates,” stated Mr. Moore.  Mr. Engel continued, “A common foundation is essential for meaningful discussion and comparison among national, state, and local jurisdictions. This white paper provides some clarity that should help advance the dialog.”

The project team believes this is the first study to integrate national MSW recovery rate data and distinguish between residential versus industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sectors.  Some of the key findings of this study are:

  • Recent research and the authors’ analysis suggests that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) MSW recovery and disposal numbers, which are widely referenced by stakeholders, may underestimate national MSW generation and overestimate recovery.
  • Comparing local government recovery rates to national statistics is rarely valid. Furthermore, the diversity of methods that state and local governments use to calculate recovery rates makes comparison amongst jurisdictions highly susceptible to misinterpretation.
  • The authors estimate that 61% of MSW is generated by the ICI sector versus 39% by the residential sector.
  • Estimated materials recovery is 23% of MSW nationally, with organics recovery adding another 5%, for a total of 28%, less than EPA’s 34% recovery rate.
  • The authors estimate that the ICI sector recovers 30% of its MSW through materials recycling, while residential materials recovery is estimated to be 14% of MSW generated.

According to Mr. Engel, “This study examines the challenge that the recycling community faces when comparing recovery data.  It identifies the fundamental differences between local versus national recovery rates.  In particular, our facts indicate that the majority of materials recovery occurs in the ICI sector, not the residential sector, which has important implications for understanding the challenges and opportunities to achieve aggressive recovery goals.”

The white paper concludes with recommendations for future improvement of recycling rates, and ensuring they are measured consistently across all jurisdictions.

The white paper is available by e-mailing either Bill Moore (MARecycle@aol.com) or Peter Engel (general@kesconsult.com) or by visiting the Moore & Associates website at www.MARecycle.com – request the paper through the Contact Us button.

Mr. Moore is president of Moore & Associates, http://marecycle.com/, an international consulting firm (based in Atlanta, GA) engaged in providing a range of market research and strategic services to the paper recycling industry.  Prior to his many years as a consultant, he held a series of positions in the paper and recycling industries. These included founder and vice president of Paper Recycling International (a joint venture of Stone Container) and the first director of recycling for Waste Management, Inc.

Mr. Engel is a senior consultant at Kessler Consulting, Inc., http://kesconsult.com/, a solid waste consulting firm (based in Tampa, FL) that provides innovative and practical solutions for a wide range of solid waste management issues to clients in the public and private sector.  He has worked as a consultant for 28 years, blending system-thinking and strong technical knowledge to help clients achieve their goals from planning and design to implementation and optimization.