According to the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), the state's recycling participation rate reached a record high of 50.7 percent in 2011, far outpacing the national average of 34 percent recorded in 2010.
DOE tracks recycling participation because of a 1989 law that set the benchmark of having a recycling participation rate of 50 percent or higher.
According to the DOE, the total amount of municipal watts recycled by state residents increased by more than 186,000 tons last year, a 4 percent increase from 2010.
Broken down to the micro level, DOE indicates that equals out to 3.54 pounds of waste collected for recycling per person, the highest rate since DOE began tracking the statistic in 1986.
The amount of waste diverted from landfills to other uses, such as recycling, increased from 54.3 percent in 2010 to 57.2 percent in 2011. Along with this, DOE's data showed that recycling rates increased for cardboard, newspaper, metals and electronics. Metals accounted for more than half of the increase in recycling. The DOE notes that less wood was collected for recycling in previous years.
"The goal of Washington state's solid and hazardous waste plan is to prevent waste and toxics whenever we can," said DOE director Ted Sturdevant in a news release. "We appreciate all the efforts of all of our partners, from individuals to local governments to private entities, who help keep valuable resources out of landfills."
All of this adds up to a lesser impact on the environment, according to DOE. These efforts eliminated 3.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of keeping 1.9 million cars off of roads. All the recycling saved 1.9 million British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy, which is equal to saving 1.1 billion gallons of gas.
"Reducing and recycling waste have economic, environmental and public health benefits for our state's residents," Sturdevant said. "It protects our water and reduces our exposure to toxic chemicals, which lowers health risks. And it can build a clean, green economy for Washington's future."