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VERIFY: How much of our recycling actually gets recycled?

A viewer asked KHOU 11 how much of their recycling actually gets recycled.

HOUSTON — A viewer recently reached out to our VERIFY team to ask how much of our recycling actually ends up getting recycled, so KHOU 11's Grace White worked to find out.


Viewer Mike from the Cypress area sent us this question:

"I've heard that very little of what is picked up from households to be recycled is actually processed as recycled materials, as little as 20%. Is that true?"



This needs context.


Republic Services, which provides trash and recycling services in the Houston area, said that in theory, 100% of what is placed in the bin could be recycled. But, when it comes to reality, incorrect items - what they call contaminants - often end up in residential recycling bins.

The company doesn't track local numbers but said nationwide, roughly 25% of what comes into their recycling centers can't actually be recycled.

Waste Management, which also provides services in the Houston area, had similar numbers. About 72% of materials they receive at their Houston Westside Recycling Center are processed for reuse. An estimated 28% of items that reach their facility are found to be not recyclable and end up in a landfill.

In the City of Houston, those numbers are slightly different. A representative for Solid Waste Management told the VERIFY team that 64% of materials they receive are recycled and 36% are unable to be.

At the national level, recycling numbers have lagged way behind.

The most recent data from EPA in 2018 shows that roughly 23% of all solid waste is recycled.

So, we can VERIFY that at the national level, it's true. Less than a quarter of household trash gets recycled. But, here in Houston - we're doing a much better job recycling.

Grace White on social media: Facebook | Twitter


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