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It Starts with the Waste Sort

June 17, 2021

Provided By: SCS Engineers

It starts with the waste sort, waste characterization, and audit – which means dumpster diving!


The SCS Engineers dive team in support of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

It’s a dirty job but yields information for economic analysis.

Solid waste, recycling, and diversion planners need to differentiate between the composition and sources of waste to manage recycling and diversion programs appropriately. These programs help citizens and businesses make the most out of their waste material and help control the cost of waste management.

Why not just landfill it?

Waste diversion can positively affect communities’ environmental health, reduce the potential for soil and water contamination, and conserve resources while reducing landfill operation costs. Municipal solid waste typically contains valuable materials. The cost of manufacturing virgin materials increases and technology creates new avenues for reusing materials formerly thrown away. The pandemic has influenced what we consume and dispose of from our home or the office, influencing materials markets. 

How is the data used?

A department of natural resources or environmental committee uses waste audit data to evaluate current waste diversion programs’ effectiveness to identify and quantify additional materials that a municipality or state could divert from its landfills and serve as a baseline to measure future efforts. By comparing the new data to a previous waste composition study, you can measure the impact of existing recycling and hazardous waste management programs. The comparison further helps identify waste generation trends and how the waste stream is changing.

The waste characterization study separately analyzes the waste stream generated from various sources, including residential, industrial/commercial/institutional, construction & demolition. For solid waste, recycling and diversion planners, it is vital to differentiate waste sources to target programs properly.

There’s gold in them thar landfill hills.

Many items we throw away have continued value. Cell phones and electronics contain valuable materials, like gold, for example. Cardboard is exceptionally valuable now, as citizens and businesses are taking more deliveries at home. Organics such as food and yard waste can turn into compost.  Aluminum and steel cans can be recycled repeatedly to make new cans. Making a new can from recycled aluminum takes 95% less energy and releases 95% fewer greenhouse gases than creating the same can without recycled material.

Dive in to learn more!

USDA Announces $2 Million in Funding for Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Programs

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