Solid waste generation

This indicator tracks the amount of solid waste generated and collected for recycling or otherwise diverted from disposal in Washington each year, by ton and per capita.

What is solid waste?

Solid waste generation includes all discards from homes and businesses, as well as waste from manufacturing, construction, and environmental cleanups. Solid wastes are either sent to a landfill, incinerated, or diverted to other uses such as recycling.

Recycling includes, but is not limited to curbside-collected materials such as cans, bottles, and newspapers; commercial recyclables collected, such as metal and cardboard; and other materials collected for recycling, such as construction and demolition debris, organic materials such as food and yard waste, and electronics. Other diverted uses include energy markets, retreading (tires), and reuse.

Solid waste generated and recycled/diverted, 2000 - 2013. View our solid waste generated and recycled/diverted data.

How much solid waste is created in Washington?

In the time period covered by this graph, both solid waste generation and recycling/diversion show an overall increasing trend. The amount of solid waste generated in Washington increased steadily between 2000 and 2005. It leveled off and then decreased from 2007 to 2009 during the recession. Since then, the amount generated has fluctuated, but has generally increased, reaching 17 million tons in 2013, slightly less than the amount that was generated prior to the recession.

How much solid waste is recycled or diverted?

The amount of solid waste collected for recycling and otherwise diverted from disposal in Washington increased steadily between 2000 and 2006, climbing from 2.4 million tons to 7.7 million tons. With the exception of a sharp increase during the recession of 2008, the amount diverted from disposal has remained relatively stable since 2006, fluctuating between 7.3 and 8.3 million tons. Of the 15.5 million tons of divertable solid waste generated in Washington in 2013, just under 8 million tons, or 51.4 percent, were recycled/diverted. The diversion rate does not include the 1.5 million tons of non-divertable materials that were disposed such as asbestos and petroleum-contaminated soils.

Solid waste generated and recycle/diverted per capita, 2000 - 2013. View our solid waste generated and recycled/diverted per capita data

To provide perspective on the amount of waste produced per person per day in Washington, solid waste generated and recycled/diverted per capita are shown above. These figures include what each person puts in their own personal trash at home and at work, as well as a share of the wastes associated with the goods and services we all consume. Those wastes also have an impact on the environment, energy, economy, and greenhouse gases and are tracked and shown as part of each person's impact.

Overall, the per capita trend lines are very similar to the per-ton trend lines, both increasing over the time period shown in this graph. The per capita solid waste generated increased from 2000 until 2005, and then decreased steadily from 2006 to 2009. After increasing by over a pound per person per day between 2009 and 2010, the rate decreased in both 2011 and 2012 before increasing again in 2013. The per capita data shows that solid waste generated increased from a daily average of 12.8 pounds per person in 2012 to 13.5 pounds per person in 2013. The population increased from 6,817,770 in 2012 to 6,882,400 in 2013, or 0.9 percent, while the total waste generated per person increased by 5.4 percent. The 2013 per capita rate for waste recycled/diverted was 6.3 pounds per day, nearly the same as in 2012. This is down slightly from the all-time high in 2010 and 2011 of 6.7 pounds per person per day.

This indicator has approximately a 1.5-year time lag due to the process of gathering, compiling, and analyzing data and distributing information to stakeholders.

Why should we be concerned about how much solid waste is generated or recycled or diverted in Washington?

Solid waste represents wasted resources, energy, and money spent on goods and services that may have provided a benefit in their useful life, but ultimately end up as an environmental and economic cost. Recycling and diversion are higher priorities for waste management as they conserve resources and create more jobs than disposal.

What are the benefits of reducing the amount of solid waste generated and increasing recycling or diversion?

  • Conserves valuable resources
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful environmental pollutants
  • Conserves landfill space
  • Creates jobs.

What are some actions being taken to decrease solid waste generation and increase recycling and diversion in Washington?

  • Developing new uses and markets for diverted materials, such as construction and demolition debris
  • Encouraging Product Stewardship and product and packaging design that reduces waste
  • Providing free electronic product recycling through E-Cycle Washington
  • Maintaining the 1-800-RECYCLE database about where to recycle in Washington.