In September 2020, SCS engineers set out to study Wisconsin landfills to better understand the efforts needed to reduce waste in the state.
The result was a comprehensive 228-page report that details what the environmental consulting firm found residents were leaving in the trash.
“The DNR is looking for opportunities to minimize and divert waste at the state level, but also at the source or at the regional level,” said Casey Lamensky, solid waste coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR ) when launching the study. âMNR will continue to work with local governments, businesses and organizations to ensure they have the resources they need to divert materials from the landfill. “
This is not the first waste characterization study conducted in the state. Wisconsin used data collected in 2003 and 2009 to make waste management decisions, such as the proper sizing of a construction and demolition recycling facility at the Rodefeld landfill in Dane County.
In collaboration with MNR, SCS visited 15 landfills and transfer stations across the state in 2020 and 2021 to understand the diversity of solid waste facilities “in terms of geography and size.” Almost 400 samples – 398 pieces of solid waste – were hand-sorted from residential and commercial entities. Another 659 samples of construction and demolition debris were visually inspected.
Two distinct periods, Sept.-Nov. 2020 and March-April 2021, were studied in order to get an idea of ââthe impact of the pandemic. When examining the overall composition of municipal solid waste, eight categories were identified. Organics such as food and garden waste accounted for 30.4 percent of the waste stream, followed by paper at 21.3 percent and plastic at 17.1 percent. Other types of waste included other waste at 7.7%, end-of-sample at 6.9%, construction and demolition at 6.8%, metal at 4.6%, “problem materials”. Â»At 3% and glass at 2.2%.
âFocusing efforts to reduce organic waste can make a significant difference in Wisconsin’s waste stream and the environment,â Lamensky said, referring to the most recent study. âIn addition to occupying valuable landfill space, the landfill of these materials contributes significantly to the production of methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide if it is released into the environment. ‘atmosphere.
When classified by weight, the top five materials found in landfills include wasted food that was once edible; flexible films such as candy wrappers; food scraps such as peels, bones and shells; textiles; and âcompostable paperâ such as used tissues and paper plates.
The study also shed light on the state of recycling in Wisconsin. Comparing the results of the 2020 study with those of 2009, the people of Wisconsin are putting more and more recyclable materials in the trash cans.
In fact, the MRN estimated that in 2020, 490,300 tonnes of recyclable materials, with a market value of over $ 76 million, ended up in landfills. Plastic containers # 1 and # 2, glass containers, aluminum and steel containers, cardboard and office paper were found in greater quantities in 2020 compared to the 2009 study. The agency said 754,000 tonnes of recyclable materials are processed each year.
The DNR referred to the statewide recycling law which is “designed to provide access to recycling to all residential properties, businesses and institutions.”
“We know from surveys that some people don’t recycle because they think the separated recyclable material ends up in the landfill,” Lamensky said. âWe want to encourage everyone to take advantage of their local recycling program. The Wisconsin recycling industry is very successful at getting these materials to buyers, so generally, once the recyclables are placed in the recycling bin, they don’t go to landfill.
While roofing shingles were the second most important material in Wisconsin municipal solid waste streams in 2009, recycling of these materials has become “much more prevalent.” Improvements in infrastructure have led to a 30% to 10% drop in construction and demolition waste streams to landfill. The material is now reused for use in asphalt roads.
MNR has stated that it will use the results to guide its waste reduction policy and strategies.