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Contact: Casey Lamensky, DNR solid waste coordinator or 608-577-3643

DNR Launches Waste Characterization Study At Wisconsin Landfills

Study To Provide Insight Into Waste Reduction And Diversion Efforts

A group of workers weigh trash at a landfill Samples are weighed before heading to the sorting table. Photo credit: Wisconsin DNR

MADISON, Wis. – This past September, SCS Engineers began collecting and sorting samples of municipal solid waste at landfills across the state as part of a study aimed at better understanding what Wisconsinites are throwing in the trash.

Results of the study will provide a powerful planning tool for waste reduction and minimization efforts across the state, and when compared to prior studies conducted in 2003 and 2009, will help officials identify trends in waste and recycling.  

“Millions of pounds of materials are diverted through recycling, e-cycling or composting every year, which keeps hazardous materials out of the environment, saves valuable landfill space and supports Wisconsin’s economy,” said Kate Strom Hiorns, DNR recycling and solid waste section chief. “But more can be done. This study will help determine the communication, infrastructure and resources still needed.”

Crews will visit 12 landfills across the state to sort 400 municipal solid waste samples and visually characterize 640 construction and demolition waste loads. Crews are trained to identify 85 material types, representing eight waste categories including plastics, organics and hazardous materials. Region, hauler type and the source of the waste will also be recorded.

“The DNR is looking for opportunities to minimize and divert waste statewide, but also at the source or regional level,” said Casey Lamensky, DNR solid waste coordinator. “The DNR will continue to work with local governments, businesses and organizations to ensure they have the resources they need to divert materials from the landfill.”

Waste characterization data from 2003 and 2009 provided crucial information for waste management decisions still affecting residents today. Dane County used the 2009 study, which identified construction and demolition materials as one of the top contributing material groups, to properly size a construction and demolition recycling facility at the Rodefeld Landfill.

“We hope the 2020 data will be similarly used,” Lamensky said. “Dane County is a great example of why this information is important.”

The final report will be published this spring. From mid-October through mid-December, crews will be sampling at landfills located in Appleton, Wisconsin Rapids, Weyerhaeuser, Watertown, Muskego, Franklin, Menomonee Falls and Eau Claire. 

To learn more about recycling in Wisconsin, visit the DNR’s what to recycle page.