Pandemic Recycling Data Shows Big Spikes in Cardboard Boxes, Aluminum Cans, Bottles

This Earth Day, Republic Services is releasing pandemic recycling data showing significant increases in the recycling of cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles over the last year, reflecting a shift in consumer behavior to more at-home consumption. All of these high-demand materials can be put back into the circular economy through proper recycling methods.

“The pandemic’s effects were clearly seen in home recycling bins,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability. “We know that Americans are willing to recycle and are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment, so it’s vital that we continue to help consumers understand what can and cannot be recycled this Earth Day and beyond.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, online shopping has risen to new heights – and those cardboard boxes have shown up in recycling bins, with a 63% increase in residential cardboard in some markets. In addition, households have been consuming more food and beverages at home, resulting in significant increases in recycled aluminum (17%), glass (13%) and plastic bottles (7%).

Pandemic Recycling Infographic

Organic waste, which includes food and yard waste, also experienced a major increase, as people cooked and did yard work while at home over the last year. Republic Services processed 20% more food and yard waste in 2020 and recycled this organic material into more than half a million tons of nutrient-rich compost.

Recycling is a simple way that everyone can be more sustainable in their daily lives, and it’s important to know how and what to recycle. Visit RecyclingSimplified.com for recycling tips, videos and other materials, as well as recycling curriculum for educators.

For more information about how consumers can bring Earth Day into their everyday, visit RepublicServices.com/earthday.

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