Mixed Solid Waste (MSW) Recycling

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Market Overview

The total generation of municipal solid waste in 2017 was 267.8 million tons of Mixed Solid Waste, approximately 5.7 million tons more than the amount generated in 2015. MSW generated in 2017 increased to a whopping 4.51 pounds per person per day. This is an increase from the 262.1 million tons generated in 2015 and the 208.3 million tons in 1990.

Per capita MSW generation increased from 4.48 pounds per person per day in 2015 to 4.51 pounds per person per day in 2017, which is one of the lowest estimates since 1990. Overall, MSW generation per person per day peaked in 2000.

Paper and paperboard products made up the largest percentage of all the materials in the Mixed Solid Waste industry, at 25 percent of total generation. On the flip side, generation of paper and paperboard products declined from 84.8 million tons in 2005 to 67 million tons in 2017.

Yard trimmings comprised the fourth largest material category, estimated at 35.2 million tons, or 13.1 percent of total generation, in 2017. This compares to 35 million tons (16.8 percent of total generation) in 1990.

In 2017, plastic products generation was 35.4 million tons, or 13.2 percent of generation. This was an increase of four million tons from 2010 to 2017, and it came from durable goods and the containers and packaging categories. Plastics generation has grown from 8.2 percent of generation in 1990 to 13.2 percent in 2017.

In 2017, 2.8 million tons of selected consumer electronics were generated, representing less than 2 percent of MSW generation. Selected consumer electronics include metal products such as TVs, VCRs, DVD players, video cameras, stereo systems, telephones and computer equipment.

The total MSW recycled was 67.2 million tons, with paper and paperboard accounting for approximately 66 percent of that amount. Metals comprised about 12 percent, while glass, plastic and wood made up between 4 and 5 percent.

In 2017, 34 million tons of MSW were combusted with energy recovery. Food made up the largest component of MSW combusted at approximately 22 percent. Rubber, leather and textiles accounted for over 16 percent of MSW combustion. Plastics comprised about 16 percent, and paper and paperboard made up about 13 percent.

In 2017, about 139.6 million tons of MSW were landfilled. Food was the largest component at about 22 percent. Plastics accounted for about 19 percent, paper and paperboard made up about 13 percent, and rubber, leather and textiles comprised over 11 percent.


Market Challenge

In some cases, technologies may deliver a higher volume of recycled material, but increased contamination could result in reduced commodity prices.It’s crucial to have a precise recycling separation process to keep mixed municipal solid waste uncontaminated. Also, lack of separation at the consumer end can lead to more health risks for workers exposed to hazardous waste and other waste concerns.

Additionally, the generation of paper and paperboard has decreased from 87.7 million tons in 2000 to 67 million tons in 2017. While this is beneficial for the environment, it results in a lower revenue for recyclers. In the big picture, the growth rate for recycling has been slowing over the last few years.  This necessitates more efficient and accurate processing to continue growth for the processors.

Market Compliancy
  • OSHA
  • EPA
  • HHW
  • DOE
Market Solutions

To meet the need for more efficient processing, Fluent Conveyors offers many cost-effective solutions for seamlessly separating recyclables from mixed solid waste.  Our goal is fast, efficient and low maintenance systems that will run reliably and last a long time. This ensures we protect your overhead and offer a quick ROI.  Fluent offers standard manual sort systems from 3 man up to 12 man and beyond, as well as fully custom semi-automated sorting systems.  We can also build the system around your needs utilizing magnetic belts, eddie currents, ballistic separators, fines screens, optical sorters, slider bed conveyor belts, trough idler conveyors and more.  Fluent also offers many different belt options, from our massive roller chain conveyors for high impact and high load applications, to our post sort baler infeed conveyors.