What is in Wisconsin’s landfills? DNR’s study reveals 600,000+ tons of wasted food

Local News

(WFRV) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is providing options to reduce waste after its 2020-2021 waste characterization study revealed double the percentage of wasted food since 2009.

The DNR reportedly contracted with SCS Engineers to complete the study. Throughout the course of the study, crews collected many pieces of information from:

  • Visiting
    • 14 landfills
    • One solid waste transfer station
  • Hand sorting
    • 398 samples of solid waste
  • Inspecting
    • 659 samples of construction and demolition debris

The sorting took place over two periods, Sept. to Nov. 2020 and March to April 2021. Officials say the results of the study were likely affected by the pandemic.

Materials like food and yard waste make up the largest category of waste (organic waste) found in landfills across the state. Wasted food, which is described as formerly edible food that was spoiled or discarded without being eaten was the largest component at 14.5%. Inedible food scraps, like banana peels, were the third largest at 6%.

The DNR says when those two components are combined, the food wastes make up double the percentage found in a previous Wisconsin landfill study done in 2009.

“Focusing efforts to reduce organic wastes can make a significant difference in Wisconsin’s waste stream and the environment,” says Casey Lamensky, DNR Solid Waste Coordinator.

The study also found higher amounts of recyclable materials when compared to the 2009 study. The recyclables were mistakenly put into the trash instead of recycling bins. Some of the items found were plastic containers, glass containers, aluminum and steel containers, cardboard and office paper.

The top five materials (by weight) that were found in Wisconsin landfills are:

  • Wasted food that was formery edible
  • ‘Other flexible films’ (candy wrappers and chip bags)
  • Food preparation scraps (peels, bones and shells)
  • Textiles, including clothing, cloth furnishings and bedding
  • ‘Compostable paper’, typically paper products that cannot be recyled (facial tissues and paper plates)

Information from this study will reportedly guide the DNR on where to focus on new waste reduction methods and strategies to divert waste from landfills.

The DNR also provided some tips to help reduce food waste in landfills. One of the tips was to bring a shopping list to the store to avoid buying excessive amounts of food. Another way to reduce waste is to understand food expiration labels and compost food scraps.

Included in the study was a breakdown of the amount of items found in landfills. Some of the items include:

  • 154,000 tons of diapers
  • 103,000 tons of animal waste/kitty litter
  • 28,400 tons of small electrical appliances
  • 44,300 tons of carpet
  • 32,800 tons of magazines/catalogs

The full study can be viewed online.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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