Seeking to fill the void with updated information about the current state of global recycling efforts, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has compiled some recent facts and statistics on how we’re progressing in this important initiative.
The WEF findings were reported in their article, “Top 25 recycling facts and statistics for 2022,” posted on the WEF website. Unfortunately, the news is not good!
Here is a brief summary of the “lowlights” of their report:
- The world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste a year, but we’re recycling plastic at lower than previously estimated rates. In the U.S. in 2021, we recycled just 2 million tons of the estimated 40 million tons of plastic waste generated, about 5-6% of the total.
- Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest-growing source of waste globally. E-waste volumes increased to 53.6 million tons in 2019, an estimated 21% increase in just 5 years. Yet, only about 17% of discarded e-waste was recycled in 2019.
- The rate of E-waste recycling in the U.S. is trending even lower than global efforts. Only about 15% of the estimated 5 million tons of e-waste discarded here in 2019 was recycled.
- The largest category of waste reported is related to chronic food misallocation and inefficiency. The WEF reports that 40% of the food produced globally is wasted, enough to fee every unnourished person in the world four times over. Further, food waste generates around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
On the plus side, the WEF reports that aluminum and paper recycling efforts have gained the most traction in recent years. Currently, aluminum accounts for only 1% of the U.S. waste stream, despite steady growth in the demand for and consumption of the material. And paper and paper products such as corrugated cardboard achieved a 68% recycling rate in 2021.