Sorting waste for a state-wide study
So what’s in municipal solid waste? The EPA reports that “MSW – otherwise known as trash or garbage – consists of everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food waste, newspapers, appliances, and batteries. Not included are materials that may also be disposed of in landfills, including construction and demolition debris, municipal wastewater treatment sludges, and non-hazardous industrial wastes. The “waste stream” varies of course, be it suburban versus urban, or considered on an aggregated national or state, regional, or city basis.
The U.S. EPA 2010 report titled “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States” provides breakdowns and trends by decade. Its summary tables show the waste generated (in thousands of tons and in percentages), the amount recycled, and the “discarded” balance. It was updated for 2011.
Of the total waste generated in 2010, 249,860 thousand tons, or just shy of 250 million tons, 85,140 or 34.1% was recycled. The balance of 164,720 thousand of tons was discarded each year. Of the total, paper and paperboard was 71.3 million tons (28.5%), glass 11.53 (4.6%), metals 16.9 (6.8%), plastics 31,040 (12.4%), yard wastes (13.4%) food scraps (13.9%) with wood, textiles, leather and rubber, and miscellaneous inorganic waste materials.
Materials recovered in 2011, 87 million tons
The State of Oregon Statewide Waste Composition study of 2009 provides detail. In broad categories, it found that paper was 16.99% of the waste stream, 11.56 % was plastic, while other organics (yard debris, construction and demolition wood material, exterior clipping, food etc. was fully half the stream, 50.21%, glass (1.95%), metal (6.98%), other inorganics (rock, concrete, etc.) at 11.09%, and hazardous materials (0.45%). Some interesting line items: disposable diapers (2.76%) about the same as rugs (2.63%); and food a whopping 16.99%.
A composition study from Vermont in 2002 analyzed wastes from 51 homes and 40 businesses with average sample sizes of 258 and 286 pounds respectively. It found that the composition of residential waste was dominated by food waste (21%), followed by recycled paper (17%), dirty paper (9%), textiles (5%), recyclable containers (7%), all other ferrous (2%), and “other waste categories” (39%). The commercial sector varied more and was analyzed based on the type of business including office, retail, restaurant, grocery, motel/hotels