New figures just released by the EPA show that the U.S. generated 3.41 million tons of e-waste in 2011, up from 3.32 million tons in 2010. We recovered 850,000 tons, or almost 25% of that for recycling, up from 19.6% in 2010. But in the report, the EPA cautions that this apparent increase in the recycling rate is, “due primarily to better data, rather than a sudden growth in recycling.”
The figures come from “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, 2011 Facts and Figures,” a report the EPA publishes annually waste from residential, commercial and institutional sources. The report shows that the e-waste recycling rate is considerably smaller than for some other product categories, summarized in the chart below, including auto batteries (96.2% recycling rate), major appliances (64.2%), and tires, (44.6%). Significantly, these are all product categories where the retailers play a major role in taking back the products, often when replacements are purchased.
The report does not represent all e-waste generation, but represents “selected consumer electronics” which include products such as TVs, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras, stereo systems, telephones, and computer equipment.