State's recycling rate above 50 percent for first time

Washington state’s recycling rate grew to its highest level ever, reaching 50.7 percent in 2011, according to data reported by the Washington Department of Ecology.

It is the first time the recycling rate has topped the 50 percent goal set by a 1989 state law. The latest available national average recycling rate was 34 percent in 2010.

The total amount of municipal waste recycled by state residents increased by more than 186,000 tons in 2011, up 4 percent from 2010. That equals 3.64 pounds per person per day collected for recycling, which is the highest ever measured in Washington, since the ecology department began measuring recycling in 1986.

The total amount of waste tossed out by households and businesses has been decreasing through the recession, and in 2011 that trend continued. Disposal dropped by about 170,000 tons or 4 percent in 2011.

Citizens threw away 3.54 pounds of waste per person per day in landfills, the lowest amount in 24 years.

The amount of waste diverted from landfill disposal for other uses – including recycling, energy recovery and reuse – increased from 54.3 percent in 2010 to 57.2 percent in 2011. This is largely because less construction and demolition related materials disposed of in landfills.

While the amount of construction and demolition related materials diverted from landfills stayed relatively even, less was disposed, causing the overall diversion rate to go up.

Data showed that recycling rates increased for cardboard, newspaper, metals, and electronics.

Metals – such as ferrous, nonferrous and steel cans – accounted for more than half of the increase in recycling. Less wood was collected for recycling in 2011 than in previous years.

“Reducing and recycling waste have economic, environmental and public health benefits for our state’s residents,” said Ted Sturdevant, the department’s director, in a press release. “It protects our water and reduces our exposure to toxic chemicals, which lowers health risks. And it can build a clean, green economy for Washington’s future.”

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