What's in Our Waste?
Have you ever wondered what's in the region's garbage and recycling...or whether it does anyone any good to know this? The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has conducted comprehensive waste composition studies every five years or so since the 1990s.
These studies provide data from which to observe the actual results of policies and make accurate projections of outcomes from potential new policies, projects, private enterprise developments. For example, researching the amount of deposit bottles and cans that end up in landfills can help us assess whether an increase to the 5-cent deposit value is necessary. (Lane County's waste composition study shows that just over one half of one percent of our garbage is deposit bottles, equaling an estimated 1,258 tons.)
This information can be used by entrepreneur recycling businesses to research new business opportunities, and by local governments to identify marketable commodities that are currently wasted but could be used to increase local economies.
In June 2009 the DEQ began fieldwork for their year-long study of statewide waste composition. Technicians took samples at landfills, transfer stations, and mixed solid waste–processing facilities over the course of a year.
These samples were sorted into 219 different types of materials and categories. They were weighed, cleaned, dried, and then weighed again to come up with a measurement of clean, dry materials. Technicians also analyzed where the waste came from—how the waste was delivered to its ultimate landfill destination, such as residential route trucks, commercial routes, compacted drop boxes, loose drop boxes, and self-hauled. DEQ also conducted a similar study on the Mixed or Commingled Recycling systems in Oregon during a similar timeframe.
Lane County contracted with the DEQ to have sufficient extra samples taken and analyzed for a statistically accurate study of Lane County's waste. Several other counties and cities periodically do the same. You can view the Portland METRO, Marion County, City of Eugene, and the statewide study results on their website.
Lane County Waste Management staff have created user-friendly charts to view what's in the waste stream. To learn more about what our various Lane County communities are throwing away, click the links below: