Erie Vital Signs

Recycling and Waste: Recyclables per Capita

Recent Performance

This trend is negative or needs improvement.

After a strong showing in 2010, recyclables in Erie County have fallen to a level near 500 pounds per year, not much more than half the Pennsylvania average.

The Basics

This indicator reports the amount of recyclables per capita, in pounds. A higher number is better.

Why It's Important

Recovering usable material from trash, which would otherwise simply add to landfills, is clearly a planet-friendly activity. A larger amount of recyclables per capita is a good thing, presuming that it means a lower amount going into landfills and not just an increase in the total amount of refuse.

The Details

Statewide recycling in Pennsylvania began in 1988 with the Municipal Waste Planning Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101) that requires larger municipalities to recycle. The Act established a $2-per-ton fee on all waste disposed at municipal waste landfills and waste-to-energy facilities established grants for local collection programs, public education, materials processing and composting facilities, equipment and technical training. Act 101 also requires each county to develop county plans to manage its own wastes and assure a minimum of ten years disposal capacity. Each year, the counties report countywide municipal waste generation and recycling data to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for use in compiling a statewide analysis of recycling and its benefits. Counties are required to submit plan revisions to DEP by the time their remaining disposal capacity is reduced to three years. All plans are submitted to DEP for approval.

This indicator uses the tonnage data from the DEP reports, divided by population data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get recyclables per capita. Per capita numbers are used to allow comparison between Erie and the much-larger state of PA.


None, although the underlying DEP database provides information on 60 separate categories of recyclables.




Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

  • Halvorsen, Bente. “Effects of Norms and Opportunity Cost of Time on Household Recycling.” Land Economics, v. 84, #3 (2008), pp. 501-516.
  • Kinnaman, Thomas C. "Policy Watch: Examining The Justification For Residential Recycling." Journal of Economic Perspectives, v. 20, #4 (2006): 219-232. Available online here.
  • Viscusi, W. Kip; Joel Huber and Jason Bell. “Promoting Recycling: Private Values, Social Norms, and Economic Incentives.” The American Economic Review, v. 101, No. 3, (Papers and Proceedings), May 2011, pp. 65-70.

content management, website design, e-commerce and web development services in Erie, Pennsylvania