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Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling

EPA defines durable goods as products with a lifetime of three years or more, although there are some exceptions. In this EPA analysis, the durable goods category includes large and small appliances, furniture and furnishings, carpets and rugs, rubber tires, lead-acid automotive batteries, consumer electronics, and other miscellaneous durable goods such as luggage, sporting goods and household goods.

EPA measures the generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling of durable goods. This web page is a brief summary of data that is specific to durable goods. For more comprehensive information on this category of municipal solid waste (MSW), see the 2015 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page.

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Overview of Durable Goods

Managers of MSW facilities often call durable goods oversized and bulky. Facilities handle these goods in a somewhat different manner than other components of MSW. These goods are often picked up separately and typically they are not mixed with other MSW at the facility. A wide variety of materials make up durable goods. In 2015, in order of decreasing tonnage, the most common materials in durable goods of MSW included: ferrous metals, plastics, rubber and leather, wood, textiles, glass, other nonferrous metals (e.g., lead, copper) and aluminum.

As of 2015, the generation of durable goods in MSW was 54.2 million tons (20.6 percent of total MSW generation). That year, 10.3 million tons of durable goods were recycled (18.9 percent recycling rate). Additionally, the combustion of durable goods was 8.6 million tons (25.6 percent of total combustion with recovery), and landfills received 35.3 million tons (25.6 percent of total landfilling) in 2015.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of all durable goods generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on All Durable Goods in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)

Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generated 9,920 14,660 21,800 29,810 38,870 45,060 49,350 53,040 54,150
Recycled 350 940 1,360 3,460 6,580 7,970 9,390 10,140 10,250
Composted - - - - - - RENAGADE GTX Ws MID 9768 LOWA grey 320945 Unisex Boot green adult Hiking - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 60 440 4,480 6,260 6,750 7,070 8,410 8,600
Landfilled 9,570 13,660 20,000 21,870 26,030 30,340 32,890 34,490 35,300

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Major Appliances

Major appliances or white goods, in MSW include items such as refrigerators, washing machines and water heaters. Data on unit production of appliances are from Appliance Manufacturer Market Profile, Appliance Manufacturer Shipments Forecasts, and Appliance Statistical Review.

In 2015, generation was 4.9 million tons, or 1.8 percent of total MSW generation. While the number of units of appliances is higher than previous years, the average weight per unit is lower. Ferrous metals (steel and iron) are the predominant materials in major appliances, but different metals, plastics, glass and other materials are also present.

Data on the recovery of ferrous metals from major appliances are from a survey conducted by the Steel Recycling Institute. This survey estimates the recovery of ferrous metals from shredded appliances to be three million tons in 2015, leaving 1.9 million tons of appliances to be landfilled. Major appliances are not accepted at combustion facilities with energy recovery.

Composting and combustion for energy recovery data for major appliances is negligible and was not included.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of major appliances generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

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1960-2015 Data on Major Appliances in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 9768 grey MID Unisex 320945 adult RENAGADE Ws green Hiking Boot LOWA GTX 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 grey RENAGADE Boot 320945 9768 MID Ws green GTX LOWA adult Unisex Hiking 2015
Generated 1,630 2,170 2,950 3,310 3,640 3,610 4,020 4,650 4,860
Recycled 10 50 130 1,070 2,000 2,420 2,610 Boot adult LOWA green Hiking grey 320945 RENAGADE GTX MID 9768 Unisex Ws 2,710 3,000
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combusted with Energy Recovery - - - - - - - - -
Landfilled 1,620 2,120 2,820 2,240 1,640 1,190 1,410 1,940 1,860

Sources: Appliance Manufacturer Market Profile, Appliance Manufacturer Shipments Forecasts, Appliance Statistical Review and Steel Recycling Institute.

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Small Appliances

This category includes items such as toasters, hair dryers and electric coffee pots. Information on shipments of small appliances is from Department of Commerce data, Annual Appliance Industry Forecasts, and Appliance Statistical Review. Information on weights and the material composition of discarded small appliances comes from manufacturer specifications and interviews. In 2015, EPA estimated that the generation of small appliances was about 1.96 million tons. After magnetic separation, a small amount of ferrous metals in small appliances were recycled.

EPA estimated that of the 1.96 million tons of small appliance waste generated, only about 6 percent was recycled. A small proportion of small appliances were combusted for energy recovery (19 percent), while the majority (75 percent) were landfilled.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of small appliances generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Small Appliances in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generated - - - 460 1,040 1,180 1,830 1,960 1,960
Recycled - - - 10 20 20 120 120 120
Composted - - - - - RENAGADE Unisex adult MID 9768 Ws 320945 Boot LOWA Hiking GTX grey green - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 90 200 200 310 370 370
Landfilled - - - 360 820 960 1,400 1,470 1,470

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Furniture and furnishing includes items such as sofas, tables, chairs and mattresses. EPA used data on sales of furniture and furnishing from the Department of Commerce for this analysis.

To measure the generation of furniture and furnishings, EPA counted products at the end-of-life (after primary use and reuse by secondary owners). Generation of furniture and furnishings in MSW was 12.1 million tons in 2015 (4.6 percent of total MSW), up from 2.2 million tons in 1960.  Wood was the largest material category in furniture, and ferrous metals was the second largest category. Plastics, glass and other materials were also found in furniture. Although recovery of wood, textiles and metals may be occurring, no measurable data source was accessible.

A significant proportion (19.5 percent) of furniture and furnishings was combusted for energy recovery in 2015, but the majority of this product sector was landfilled (80.4 percent).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of furniture and furnishings generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Furniture and Furnishings in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
320945 green Ws Boot Hiking grey 9768 Unisex MID LOWA GTX RENAGADE adult Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generated 2,150 2,830 4,760 6,790 8,120 9,340 10,820 11,860 12,050
Recycled - - - - - - 10 10 10
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 90 1,150 1,570 1,700 1,910 2,320 2,350
Landfilled 2,150 2,830 4,670 5,640 6,550 7,640 Ws MID RENAGADE green 9768 Hiking GTX grey Boot 320945 LOWA adult Unisex 8,900 9,530 9,690

Source: Department of Commerce

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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EPA estimated that the generation of carpets and rugs in MSW was 3.6 million tons in 2015, representing 1.4 percent of total generation based on data from past carpet sales from the Department of Commerce's Current Industrial Report Carpet and Rug Series.

Based on industry data, EPA estimated that the recycling of carpet fiber, backing, and padding was 190,000 tons in 2015, which was 5.2 percent of carpet generation. A slightly larger proportion (18.5 percent) was combusted for energy recovery, while the majority of rugs and carpets were landfilled (76.3 percent).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of carpets and rugs generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Carpets and Rugs in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generated - - - 1,660 2,460 2,960 3,720 3,730 3,630
Recycled - adult 9768 RENAGADE GTX LOWA Boot MID Ws grey green Unisex 320945 Hiking - - - 190 250 270 210 190
Composted - - - - - - - green grey 320945 LOWA 9768 RENAGADE GTX Unisex Ws adult Boot Hiking MID - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - 290 440 490 610 690 670
Landfilled - - - 1,370 1,830 2,220 2,840 2,830 2,770

Source: Department of Commerce Current Industrial Report Carpet and Rug Series.

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Vehicle Tires

EPA estimated the generation of rubber tires was 5.8 million tons in 2015, approximately 2.2 percent of total MSW. EPA only included tires from passenger cars, trucks and motorcycles in these figures. Tires used in large equipment, aviation or industrial applications were not included.

The Agency also estimated the tire recycling rate was 40.2 percent based on data on the recovery of tires from the Rubber Manufacturing Association. Tires recovered for fuel were not included in this analysis. However, tires going to combustion facilities as fuel were included in the combustion estimates.

In 2015, the amount of tires combusted with energy recovery was 2.8 million tons (47.6 percent of tire generation). That same year, landfills received about 0.7 million tons of tires (12.2 percent of tire generation).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of vehicle tires generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Vehicle Tires in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation 1,120 1,890 2,720 3,610 4,930 4,910 5,130 5,560 5,840
Recycled 330 250 150 440 1,290 1,640 2,270 2,250 2,350
 Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - 30 400 2,260 Ws green Hiking GTX 320945 grey LOWA Boot Unisex adult 9768 RENAGADE MID 2,390 2,000 3,080 2,780
Landfilled 790 1,640 2,540 2,770 1,380 880 860 230 710

Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Commission, Rubber Manufacturing Association; National Automobile Dealers Association, and Modern Tire Dealer Magazine.

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Lead Acid Batteries

EPA estimates that the generation of lead-acid batteries from automobiles, trucks and motorcycles in MSW in 2015 was 3.1 million tons (1.2 percent of total generation).

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The Agency estimated that in 2015, the recycling rate for the lead in these batteries, as well as the polypropylene battery casings, was 99 percent. (Recyclers remove some electrolytes and other materials in batteries from the municipal solid waste stream, along with recovered lead and polypropylene. EPA counts these materials as “recovered,” along with the recyclable materials.) Only about 1 percent of lead acid batteries were landfilled. Lead acid batteries are not accepted at combustion facilities.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of lead acid batteries generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Lead Acid Batteries in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation - 820 1,490 1,510 2,280 2,750 3,020 3,230 3,130
Recycled - 620 1,040 1,470 2,130 2,640 2,980 3,200 3,100
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - - - - - - -
Landfilled - 200 450 40 150 110 40 30 30

Sources: Battery Council International, Census Bureau, and the National Automobile Dealers Association

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

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Total Miscellaneous Durable Goods

"Electronics" plus “Other Miscellaneous Durable Goods” equals “Total Miscellaneous Durable Goods.” Miscellaneous durable goods include consumer electronics such as television sets, videocassette recorders, personal computers, luggage and sporting equipment. An estimated 22.7 million tons of these goods were generated in 2015, amounting to 8.7 percent of MSW generated.

The total miscellaneous durable goods category, as a whole, includes ferrous metals as well as plastics, glass, rubber, wood, and other metals. Pre-combustion and post-combustion magnetic separation has a positive impact on this category, bringing total recovery from all recycling pathways to about 1.5 million tons. An estimated 2.4 million tons were combusted with energy recovery (10.7 percent of generation) and 18.8 million tons of total miscellaneous durable goods were landfilled in 2015 (82.8 percent of total miscellaneous durable goods generation).

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of total miscellaneous durable goods generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Total Miscellaneous Durables Waste Management in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Unisex LOWA Boot adult RENAGADE 9768 Ws 320945 grey MID GTX Hiking green Generation 5,020 6,950 9,880 12,470 16,400 20,310 20,810 22,050 22,680
Recycled 10 20 40 470 950 1,000 1,130 1,640 1,480
Composted - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 60 320 2,550 1,790 1,970 2,240 1,950 2,430
Landfilled 5,010 6,870 9,520 9,450 13,660 17,340 17,440 18,460 18,770

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

 

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Electronics

EPA measures electronics in MSW primarily as part of the larger category, "Miscellaneous Durable Goods." One subcategory, “Selected Consumer Electronics,” includes products such as TVs, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras, stereo systems, telephones and computer equipment.  

EPA estimated that the generation of consumer electronics goods in 2015 was 3.09 million tons, representing less than 2 percent of all MSW generation. In 2015, the rate of selected consumer electronics recycling was 39.8 percent.

EPA does not currently have information on the amount of selected consumer electronics that facilities combusted for energy recovery or sent to landfills in 2015. These products are included in Total Miscellaneous Durables.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of electronics generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Selected Consumer Electronics in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation - - - - 1,900 2,630 3,120 3,360 3,090
Recycled - - - - 190 360 650 1,400 1,230
Composted - - - - - Unisex green adult grey Ws 9768 Boot RENAGADE 320945 LOWA Hiking GTX MID - - -  
Combusted with Energy Recovery - - - - - - - -  
Landfilled - - - - - - - -  

Sources: “Electronic Products Generation and Recycling in the United States, 2013 and 2014” and state environmental agency websites.

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

A graph is not provided because sufficient data is not available in the table.

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Other Miscellaneous Durable Goods

These include items such as luggage and sporting equipment.

The data in the table below are from 1960 to 2015, relating to the total number of tons of other miscellaneous durable goods generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled.

1960-2015 Data on Other Miscellaneous Durable Goods in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)
Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015
Generation - - - - 14,500 17,680 17,690 18,690 19,590
Hiking green Ws 320945 LOWA Boot Unisex RENAGADE grey MID adult 9768 GTX Recycled - - - - 760 640 480 240 250
Composted - - - - - - - -  
Combustion with Energy Recovery - - - - - - - -  
Landfilled - - - - - - - -  

A dash in the table means that data is not available.

A graph is not provided because sufficient data is not available in the table.

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