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The average recycling rate for the nation has hovered at roughly 34 percent for the last five years. According to the National Resources Defense Council, this is one of the lowest rates of any developed nation. And though our numbers are up significantly from 40 years ago—merely 6 percent in 1960 — Americans are still sending more than half their trash to landfills and incinerators.
"There are a number of reasons why we have plateaued at this recycling rate," says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the NRDC. One of the reasons is that guidelines for what can and cannot be recycled vary from state to state, even between cities, Hoover explains. "But you can help reduce waste by learning your community's recycling rules." Here's everything you need to know:
recycal.org; (205) 252-7581
Did you know...? The Alabama Environmental Council's "recycal" initiative will help residents dispose of harder-to-recycle items like corks, plastic water filters, batteries, and cigarette waste.
dec.alaska.gov; (907) 269-7802
Did you know...? Since 2007, local organizations have helped conserve over 18,000 gallons of gas thanks to the Don't Be Fuelish campaign designed to encourage Alaskans to conserve fuel.
azdeq.gov; (602) 771-2300
Did you know... ? Residents can take part in a 6-week challenge with the Department of Environmental Quality to learn about minimizing the amount of local household food waste.
adeq.state.ar.us; (501) 682-0744
Did you know... ? Arkansans have access to their very own recycling and reuse specialist who can help answer any questions about local recycling and waste reduction efforts!
calrecycle.ca.gov; (800) 732-9253
Did you know... ? In 2014, California became the first state to move forward with legislation outlawing the single-use plastic grocery bag statewide.
colorado.gov; (303) 692-2000
Did you know... ? The University of Colorado Boulder hosts zero waste school football and basketball games.
ct.gov; (860) 424-3000
Did you know... ? On the Reuse Marketplace website local Connecticut businesses and organizations can share and swap surplus materials, from office cubicles and chairs to classroom blackboards.
dnrec.delaware.gov; (302) 739-9403
Did you know... ? In 2009, the Diamond State passed legislation requiring all retail stores to offer a plastic bag return option for shoppers.
floridadep.gov; (850) 245-2118
Did you know... ? Florida's compost and mulching facilities help to repurpose more than 1.3 million tons of organic plant waste each year — a plus for the state's year-round growing needs!
epd.georgia.gov; (404) 656-4713
Did you know... ? Georgia's Environmental Protection Division requires all local self-serve and conveyor car washes to abide by a water conservation rule and be inspected annually to ensure compliance.
health.hawaii.gov; (808) 586-4226
Did you know... ? In addition to non-biodegradable plastic bags, paper bags containing less than 40 percent recycled material are outlawed in Hawaii's most heavily-populated counties.
deq.idaho.gov; (208) 373-0146
Did you know... ? Cities in southwest Idaho kicked off 2018 with a recycling ban that no longer allowed residents to recycle plastics numbered 3-7 (think berry containers and meat trays) or any kind of bottle cap. Instead, households will be given special bags for collecting these kinds of plastics which will then be processed into a synthetic fuel.
epa.illinois.gov; (217) 782-3397
Did you know... ? In 2016, Illinois launched Recycle Thin Film Fridays as an initiative to relcaim thin-film plastic bags and encourage residents to use reusable alternatives when possible.
in.gov; (317) 232-8172
Did you know... ? Since 2001, the Indiana Recycling Coalition has hosted the Recyclemania Tournament — a nationwide competition encouraging college students to take part in various waste-reduction initiatives. Participants have helped recycle and compost 80.1 million pounds of recylabels and organic materials!
iowadnr.gov; (515) 725-8200
Did you know... ? The Hawkeye state generates more than 3 million waste tires every year. Since waste tires are banned from landfills, and it is prohibited to burn them, residents can bring these tires back to their dealer to be recycled properly.
kdheks.gov; (785) 296-1600
Did you know... ? In 2018, Kansas State University's recycling center worked with campus housing services to recycle over 130 mattresses. The mattresses were collected, cleaned, and redistributed to communities in need.
waste.ky.gov; (502) 782-6385
Did you know... ? With statewide initiative Thinking Outside of the Box, Kentucky residents are encouraged to reduce waste and recyclable consumption by choosing products with minimal packaging, buying in bulk when possible, and "shopping the shelves" in their homes first.
deq.louisiana.gov; (225) 219-5337
Did you know... ? Louisiana offers some of the highest tax credits in the country for solar and wind energy systems providing a 50 percent credit up to $12,500 for energy systems installed on residential properties.
maine.gov; (207) 287-2870
Did you know... ? To help prevent mercury pollution, Maine residents are encouraged to bring their old mercury thermostats to local participating hardware stores and drop-off sites in exchnge for a store discount.
mde.maryland.gov; (410) 537-3000
Did you know... ? In some parts of Maryland, residents don't even need a city-issued recycling bin to recycle — materials can go into any container as long as it is marked "Recycle" and is not a plastic bag.
mass.gov; (617) 292-5500
Did you know... ? In 2014, the state's Department of Environmental Protection banned the disposal of commercial food and organic wastes by any business or institution that already discarded more than one ton of organic waste per week.
michigan.gov; (800) 662-9278
Did you know... ? In the Great Lakes State, there is a 90% return rate for refundable bottles and cans!
mn.gov; (651) 201-2603
Did you know... ? In 2016, the state's Capitol building moved closer to becoming a zero-waste workplace with programs like organics recycling and the phasing out of desk-side trash collection.
mdeq.ms.gov; (601) 961-5171
Did you know... ? In the Magnolia State, the recycyling indistury alone helps support 5,000 jobs.
oa.mo.gov; (573) 751-3384
Did you know... ? Since 2014, the Missouri State Recycling Program has hosted a statewide Zero Waste Challenge on Earth Day encouraging local school students to pack lunches in reusable containers and opt for easily recyclable plastics when needed.
deq.mt.gov; (406) 444-5345
Did you know... ? With over 100 recycling centers around the state, collecting 15 different materials from old batteries to cooking oil, 90 percent of all Montana residents live within range of a drop-off site.
das.nebraska.gov; (402) 471-2431
Did you know... ? In 2018, Lincoln will become the first Nebraska city to implement a ban on sending corrugated cardboard to landfills joining cities in six other states.
nevadarecycles.nv.gov; (800) 597-5865
Did you know... ? Since 2014, the Silver State has hosted a recycled art contest, encouraging residents of all ages statewide to get creative with their recyclables (and win a cash prize!).
nerc.org; (603) 271-6467
Did you know... ? Under state law — New Hampshire joins nine other states as a member of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse — the sale of any packaging with intentional use of lead, mercury, or other harmful chemicals is prohibited.
nj.gov; (866) 337-5669
Did you know... ? In 1980, Woodbury, New Jersey was one of the country's first cities to adopt a recycling program.
env.nm.gov; (505) 827-0197
Did you know... ? The southwestern state offers its local communities the option of implementing Pay-As-You-Throw collections where residential households only pay per unit of trash discarded rather than a standard fixed fee.
dec.ny.gov; (518) 402-8706
Did you know... ? Thanks to the Big Apple's refashionNYC textile collection program, 12.3 million pounds of discarded clothing, linens, and other household textiles have been saved from landfills to date. Instead, these items are sorted and donated to non-profits or turned into new material like carpet padding.
deq.nc.gov; (919) 707-8100
Did you know... ? To date, the Environmental Stewardship Initiative – a free and voluntary program open to organizations and facilities statewide – has helped conserver 86 billion gallons of water and over 42,000 tons of landfill waste.
deq.nd.gov; (701) 328-5150
Did you know... ? For residents of the state's capital, Bismarck, recycling is a single-stream process meaning all recyclable items can go into the same bin.
epa.ohio.gov; (614) 644-2873
Did you know... ? On average, more than 11 thousand tons of litter accumulates on the state's roadways every year costing $4.5 million dollars in clean-up costs. With Keep Ohio Beautiful's annual State Road Cleanup, volunteers are helping local taxpayers save over $400, 000!
deq.state.ok.us; (405) 702-0100
Did you know... ? The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality's annual Use Less Stuff campaign is a week-long, statewide initiative (leading up to Earth Day) that encourages residents to consume and dispose of goods more sustainably.
oregon.gov; (503) 229-5696
Did you know... ? Oregonians are recycling more than ever before, according to a 2016 report by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, with the state hovering at a 46.5 percent recycling rate.
dep.pa.gov; (717) 783-2300
Did you know... ? In 2015, the state recycled over 7.78 million tons of resources saving 10 million tons of carbon emissions from the air — that's like removing 2 million passenger vehicles off the road for a whole year!
rirrc.org; (401) 942-1430
Did you know... ? In 2016, Rhode Island became the first state to adopt standardized Recycle Across Amerca bin labels which help clarify how and what to recycle. These labels, already used by brands like Disney and Whole Foods, have been shown to increase recycling and decrease contamination.
scdhec.gov; (803) 898-3432
Did you know... ? The Palmetto State is home to a rapidly growing green industry with over 500 recycling companies creating over 21,000 jobs.
denr.sd.gov; (605) 773-3153
Did you know... ? Sioux Falls is one of few cities in the country that accepts loose plastic bags in curbside recycling. However, bags must first be bagged into a single plastic bag and tied shut otherwise they risk jamming recycling sorting equipment.
tn.gov; (615) 532-0780
Did you know... ? Thanks to Tennessee's Mobile Collection Service program, over 300,000 local families have been able to safely dispose of nearly 20 million pounds of hazardous household trash like wallpaper remover, fertilizers, and pool chemicals.
tceq.texas.gov; (512) 239-2300
Did you know...? On takecareoftexas.org, Texans can use the savings calculator to easily find out how much energy, water, and money they can save by making their home more sustainable. Plus, they can pledge to keep the Lone Star State clean and help spread awareness with a Take Care of Texas license plate!
deq.utah.gov; (801) 536-4400
Did you know...? Since 1996, the state's official Recycling Market Development Zone Program provides various eco-incentives for eligible businesses who recycle, use recycled materials when manufacturing, or compost.
dec.vermot.gov; (802) 828-1138
Did you know...? Vermont was recently declared the greenest state in America with some of the lowest total municipal solid waste generated per capita and some of the country's highest air quality.
deq.virginia.gov; (804) 698-4000
Did you know...? In 1989, this southeast state passed legislation establishing a 25% recycling rate target for its communities. As of 2015, Virginia's recycling rate surpassed the national average at 44%.
ecology.wa.gov; (360) 407-6000
Did you know...? After the passing of a 2015 city law, Seattle residents are now prohibited from throwing food waste in the garbage can — if found, their bin risks being tagged red and the residents may face fines.
dpw.dc.gov; (202) 673-6833
Did you know...? In 2016, the use of Styrofoam was officially banned in all food-serving businesses and organizations throughout our nation's capital.
dep.wv.gov; (304) 926-0440
Did you know...? The Charleston Co. School District won an EPA award for being host to one of the state's first student-driven commercial composting programs. Since 2012, over 2 million pounds of food waste have been diverted from landfills.
dnr.wi.gov; (888) 936-7463
Did you know...? A whopping 94% of Wisconsin households recycle and over half are composting their yard waste. These efforts have helped keep nearly 1.7 million tons of trash out of state landfills and incinerators annually.
deq.wyoming.gov; (307) 777-7937
Did you know...? At the University of Wyoming, students can drop off unwanted Styrofoam peanuts, binders, folders, and select office supplies at recycling stations to be reused.
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