EPA Releases 2018 MSW Facts and Figures; Ferrous Metals Recycling Up 3%

Tom Stanek
February 25, 2021

The EPA released its comprehensive report for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). The report covers all materials recycled, landfilled, composted or combusted with energy recovery in 2018.

Overall, metals (ferrous, aluminum, and other) accounted for close to 9% of total MSW – or 292 million tons.


The largest source of ferrous metals (steel and iron) in MSW are found in durable goods such as appliances, furniture and tires. The numbers below don’t include ferrous materials found in construction materials and transportation products, including automobiles.

Key figures for 2018

  • Ferrous metals generated: 19.2 million tons (6.6% of total MSW)
  • Total recycling rate: 60%
  • Durable goods: 28% (4.7 million tons)
  • Recycling rate steel cans: 71% (1.1 million tons)

Landfills received 10.5 million tons of steel in 2018 – representing 7.2% of all MSW landfilled. (View all ferrous metal data.)



Aluminum cans and other packaging account for the largest source of non-ferrous metal in MSW, along with durable and non-durable goods.

Key figures

  • Aluminum generated: 3.9 million tons
  • Containers: 1.9 million tons
  • Durable / non-durable goods: 2 million tons
  • Recycling rate: 35%
  • Aluminum cans: 50% (.67 million tons)

Landfills received approximately 2.7 million tons of aluminum – or 1.8% of MSW landfilled. (View all aluminum data.)

aluminum epa chart

Significance for metal shredding and recycling companies

The report notes that materials ending up in landfills continues to decrease — even as the population increases.

However, as the data shows, metals continue to make their way to the landfill — which means they can’t be shredded, recycled, and re-used.

As the owner or manager of a metal shredding yard, you can employ several strategies for helping consumers recycle appliances, demolition debris, or old equipment.


Be sure your website lets people know they can turn their metal scrap into cash. Explain terms such as ferrous vs. non-ferrous and the types of scrap you accept and the best times for drop-off.

Offer free pick-up

Make it super easy for people to offload scrap metal by offering to pick it up at no charge.

Many people don’t have the time or inclination to transport dirty or large-size material, especially if they don’t own a pickup truck. See S&S Metal Recycling’s website as an example.

Be COVID-aware

Put consumers at ease by communicating your COVID policy on your website — e.g. if picking up scrap from a residence, drivers wear masks and practice social distancing.

You can review all of the data, Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling, at the EPA website.

The website includes a wealth of data plus an in-depth write up of where the US stands with regard to waste.

Filed under: Shredder Industry News

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Tom Stanek

The founder and president of K2 Castings, and a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, Tom brings over 20 years of experience helping large and small shredding companies increase revenues while reducing costs.

Ben Guerrero

With over 40 years experience in the metal shredding industry, Ben has a deep knowledge of all aspects of shredding operations.