When it comes to recycling, some materials are more recyclable than others.
Also, some materials have a higher recycling rate than others.
In this guide, we outline the materials that are not only recyclable, but also how often they are being recycled.
Summary – What To Know About Recyclable Materials
In the US specifically, according to one set of data, paper and paperboard was recycled at a rate of 64.7%, lead 67%, magnesium 54%, iron and steel 52%, aluminum 50%, glass about 33%, and plastic 9.1%
Another data set puts steel’s recycling rate in the US at 88% (in 2012)
Out of 60 metals studied in the US, only 18 had a recycling rate greater than 50%
The type of product that contains certain materials can impact recycling rates too – for example with gold, recycling rates can vary anywhere between 10% (for e goods) up to 90% (for industrial applications) depending on the product with gold in it being recycled
Recycling rates can differ year to year – like e waste for example – which experienced a 19% to 29% increase over a 2 year period from 2010 to 2012
Recycling rates can differ according to global average data sets too – like plastic at about 20% for example
Different countries and even different States within countries have different recycling infrastructure and systems in place to increase or decrease recycling rates
This is evidenced with glass – one third of glass is recycled in the US roughly, compared to a 90% recycling rate in some other countries … [such as] Switzerland, Germany, and other European countries
So, overall, different materials can have different recycling rates depending on a range of factors
Most Recyclable Materials
In order of highest to lowest recycling rates:
- Paper, and Paperboard
- Glass, Plastic and Wood
Read more about recyclable materials in this guide – https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=585
*Note – these rankings depend on the country – glass can be recycled in much higher rates in some countries for example.
Some Overall Recycling Rates Of Different Materials In The US
In the US in 2015:
- The total MSW [municipal solid waste] recycled was 67.8 million tons, with paper and paperboard accounting for approximately 67 percent of that amount. Metals comprised about 12 percent, while glass, plastic and wood made up between 4 and 5 percent.
Recycling Rate Of Paper
- Over 68 million tons of paper and paperboard products are recovered annually in the U.S., achieving a recycling rate of 64.7 percent
Recycling Rate Of Metals (Aluminum, Steel and Other Metals)
Recycling rates of selected metals in the U.S. in 2016, by metal, were:
- Lead – 67%
- Magnesium – 54%
- Iron & Steel – 52%
- Aluminum – 50%
- With an overall recycling rate of 88% in 2012, steel is North America’s most recycled material. More steel is recycled each year than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined
- [one report suggests] Of the 60 [metals] studied, only 18 had greater than 50 percent recovery, with three items in the 25-50 percent recovery, three elements in the 10-25 percent category, two elements at 1-10 percent, 34 elements less than 1 percent.
- [so recycling rates for different metals vary]
- [using gold as an example] … 70 to 90 percent of gold in industrial applications is recycled, for example, only 10 to 15 percent of gold is recycled from electronic goods.
- For many other metals, the recovery rate is very low.
- Read more about the top ten metals recovered in recycling at https://www.thebalancesmb.com/scrap-metal-recycling-rate-2877928
There are also suggestions on how we might recycle more metals in these articles:
Recycling Rate Of Plastic
- … the U.S. in 2015 recycled 9.1 percent of the plastic generated, down from 9.5 percent during the previous year
- … it’s estimated that in 2015, around 55 percent of global plastic waste was discarded, 25 percent was incinerated, and 20 percent was recycled
Recycling Rate Of Glass
- Only about one third of glass is recycled in the US annually – this is in comparison to a 90% recycling rate in other some countries … [such as] Switzerland, Germany, and other European countries
Recycling Rate Of E Waste
- According to the EPA, only about 1 million tons of over 3.4 million tons of e-waste generated in the U.S. in 2012 was recycled, resulting in a recycling rate of 29 percent.
- The e-waste recycling rate in 2011 was 24.9 percent, and 19.6 percent in 2010