Knowing what people throw away helps waste managers develop plans to keep it out of landfills.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its 1996 waste characterization study of municipal solid waste in the United States. This report analyzes the waste generated, disposed and recycled across the country. According to the report, the United States reached a 27 percent recycling rate in 1995, surpassing the EPA's goal of 25 percent.
According to the Kansas Solid Waste Management Plan, the 1995 recycling rate for municipal solid waste generated in state is about 11 percent. Where does Lawrence stack up against these numbers? As of 1995, Lawrence had achieved a 29 percent recycling rate, which means that of all the waste we generate -- businesses, universities and households -- 29 percent is diverted from the landfill for recycling. In fact, Lawrence has the highest recycling rate in the state.
Last year, the Douglas County Commission reviewed and passed the Douglas/Jefferson Counties Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. The study was conducted in 1995 and was spearheaded by a Solid Waste Planning Committee with members representing both counties and cities. It provides information about the amount and type of waste generated in this region and helps people working in the waste management field identify, collect and divert materials from the waste stream.
What is Lawrence trash mainly composed of? Well, figures differ depending on the trash's source: household or business. Here is some "trash trivia" from the Solid Waste Management Plan:
Residential solid waste (by weight)
- Yard waste: 30 percent
- Durable goods (appliances, furniture, carpets/rugs, tires, car batteries, etc.): 15 percent
- Mixed paper (newspaper, junk mail, magazines, office paper, etc.): 15 percent
- Glass: 7 percent
- Plastic: 6 percent
- Food: 5 percent
- Steel (tin) packaging: 2 percent
- Aluminum packaging: 2 percent
- Corrugated boxes: 2 percent
Commercial solid waste (by weight)
- Corrugated boxes: 27 percent
- Paper: 14 percent
- Wood packaging: 10 percent
- Food: 8 percent
- Yard waste: 4 percent
- Glass: 3 percent
- Plastic: 2 percent
- Steel (tin) packaging: 1 percent
- Aluminum packaging: 1 percent
Knowing what's in the trash helps when creating efforts to reduce the waste stream. Lawrence has achieved a 29 percent recycling rate through both public and private recycling efforts. The city hosts a variety of recycling opportunities: A private curbside recycling service, public and private commercial recycling services, several drop-off sites for public use and, of course, many "in-house" recycling efforts by larger Lawrence companies.
The city's Solid Waste Division looks at this "hierarchy of waste" and targets those portions of the overall waste stream that provide the most significant reduction of waste headed for the landfill at the most cost-effective manner. Here's a glimpse at some of the services.
- Residential grass clippings and leaf waste are collected from Lawrence households every Monday. The organic matter is trucked to the city's compost facility, where it is processed and used in soil management. Even Christmas trees are collected annually, processed and used.
- Durable goods (appliances, tires) are picked up, by appointment, by the Solid Waste Division. When applicable, freon is recovered from appliances for recycling; the remaining metal is sent to a local salvage yard for recycling. Tires are sent to a regional tire recycler.
- The city's Solid Waste and Waste Reduction and Recycling divisions have also started a commercial cardboard recycling program. Only six months into operation, Lawrence businesses have diverted more than 120 tons of cardboard from the landfill.
While Lawrence citizens should be commended for achieving a 29 percent recycling rate, the number can probably be raised by increasing participation in the recycling options. For a complete set of the city's "Solid Waste Services Guide," "Recycling Guide for Businesses" and "Residential Recycling Services Guide," call 832-3030.
-- This information was provided by the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Division.