In early 2003, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) retained Engineering Solutions & Design, Inc. (ES&D) to perform a series of waste characterizations - also referred to as waste picks or waste sorts - at 11 selected solid waste management districts located throughout Ohio. The waste characterization study process included field sorting events at facilities located within each of the selected solid waste management districts. One field sorting event was undertaken in May or June 2003 (spring sort) and the other field sorting event was undertaken in September or October 2003 (fall sort).
One of the main objectives of the study was to determine the characteristics of the Ohio-generated municipal solid waste stream at various locations throughout the state. Sites were selected based on location, size, and willingness to partner with ODNR and to allow access to the solid waste facility or facilities serving the solid waste district.
Summary of Results
The Waste Characterization Study defined the three standard recyclables, paper fibers, plastics, and metals, as the major components of Ohio's waste stream. A number of other materials were considered as separate categories: yard waste, textiles, diapers, food, glass, empty aerosol cans, medical waste, fines and superfines. Other items, such as computer parts and wood, were classified as miscellaneous.
The 2003 Waste Characterization Study found that three major components comprise more than 60 percent, by weight, of Ohio's total waste stream.
Paper fiber — 41 percent by weight and 44 percent by volume. About 31 percent of the weight measured was mixed paper, newsprint, office paper and corrugated paper.
Plastic — 16 percent by weight and 25 percent by volume. HDPE#2, which is commonly used to produce food containers such as milk and juice jugs, liquid detergent bottles, trash bags and cereal box liners, accounted for approximately 38 percent of the plastics component weight and 40 percent of the total by volume.
Metals — four percent by weight and seven percent by volume.
Overall, food and yard waste also were present in notable weights and volumes. Food comprised 15 percent by weight and six percent by volume. Yard waste comprised nine percent by weight and eight percent by volume.
Visual inspection was made of all 460 loads sampled to identify large items. More than 75 percent of all loads contained loose wood. Carpet was observed in 62 percent of the loads and construction and demolition debris was seen in 52 percent of the loads. Additionally, 42 percent of the sampled loads contained small appliances, while almost 30 percent of all loads included wood furniture. More than 17 percent of the loads yielded computers.
Of the 460 loads sampled during the 2003 Waste Characterization Study, 58 loads were pure commercial loads, containing only waste generated by retail businesses, offices, schools, nursing homes and/or medical centers.
Paper fibers accounted for nearly 50 percent of the weight of pure commercial loads. The percentage of total paper fibers in the commercial loads was 7.54 percent higher than in all loads (49.18 percent compared to 41.64 percent in all loads).
Plastics represented a 1.85 percent higher content in the pure commercial loads than in all loads (17.49 percent vs. 15.64 percent in all loads).
Yard waste, textiles and food waste were less evident in these pure commercial loads.
Sampling from these 58 commercial loads, combined with results from mixed commercial/residential loads and interviews with drivers and facility staff point toward a need to focus commercial waste reduction efforts on corrugated paper, office paper, mixed paper and plastics.