Waste audits reveal trends in recycling and disposal

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Waste audits reveal trends in recycling and disposal

December 7e, 2021– Otter Tail County, MN– The Otter Tail County Solid Waste Department held its 4e Fergus Falls household waste audit last week. Previous waste audits took place in 2015 before the implementation of selective sorting, 2017, 2019 and now 2021.

What is a waste audit?

A waste audit is a physical analysis of the waste stream, with waste sorted into categories to learn about disposal trends. Past audits have focused on recycling rates before and after the implementation of selective sorting. Data from repeated waste audits can show trends over time and can be used to inform educational initiatives and programs. Waste from 230 households in the same district was collected for each audit, brought to the recycling center, and sorted by hand into the following categories: waste (for example non-recyclable packaging, bags, animal waste, personal hygiene), recycling (plastic containers, glass, metal cans, paper, cardboard), organic waste such as food scraps or food waste, hazardous household waste (paint, cleaners, rechargeable batteries), reusable (items that could have be given away or used in some other way, such as as toys, books, clothing), electronics and junk (wire hangers, pots and pans, wire shelves).

Volunteers sort residential waste into designated categories

Results:

By generation of household waste – The average amount of waste generated per household each week was between 31 and 34.5 pounds for the years 2015, 2017 and 2019. Waste generation increased by 6 pounds per household per week in 2021 for an average of 40.5 pounds per household, possibly due to the bank holiday weekend preceding the waste audit. The 2021 audit was the only year the waste audit fell right after Thanksgiving, which, although this was a deviation from how previous audits were conducted, revealed some concerns about food waste and recycling during the holidays. It is estimated that we generate 25% more waste during the holidays, which is corroborated by the findings of the 2021 waste audit.

Recycling – The results of previous waste audits revealed that the amount of recycling mixed with household waste decreased significantly after the start of the one-way recycling program, from 25% in 2015 to 11% in 2019, demonstrating the effectiveness of the system. program to encourage residents to recycle more. . However, 2021 was the first year since the start of one-way recycling that trash recycling has increased, suggesting recyclables are thrown in the trash more often at holiday gatherings than during a typical week. Simply taking out a labeled bin for recycling at holiday gatherings could reduce the amount of recyclable material ending up in the garbage.

Organics and food waste – The 2019 waste audit focused more specifically on food waste and showed that 25% of household waste is organic material, half of which was food waste that could have been avoided, much of it in packaging unopened. The 2021 waste audit yielded similar results, with 26% of the waste being organic matter, and a large portion of this came from food in unopened packaging which, if properly stored or consumed before they deteriorate, would not have been wasted. This amount of food waste has an environmental impact and wastes money – the estimated cost of food waste for the average family of four is $ 1,500 each year. .

Reuse and other categories – About 3% of the waste was items that could have been donated or reused in some other way, including clothing, holiday decorations, household items still in their original packaging, bedding, etc. Remember to donate usable items instead of throwing them away. Very small portions of the waste stream were items that could have gone to a junk bin, household hazardous waste program, or demolition waste.

“The Town of Fergus Falls urges all residents to take advantage of the ‘Single Sort’ collection service that the Town operates (made possible through the recycling fees paid by each utility account holder). We experienced great momentum in the early years of the program and we would like to see the amount of recyclable materials collected continue to increase. As it is the holiday season and we participate in more social gatherings and / or family gatherings, please consider having readily available and clearly visible containers for recyclables. Eliminating or reducing food waste is also key to reducing the weight (tonnes) we pay to eliminate; residents are encouraged to consider composting in their backyard to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill or incinerator ”. – Len Taylor, Fergus Falls Public Works Manager

The Otter Tail County Solid Waste Department would like to thank the volunteers who made the 2021 and previous waste audits possible, and the Town of Fergus Falls for coordinating the waste collection for each audit. Jeff Legge – who volunteered for all four waste audits, Sue Wika – sociology teacher at State M who also attended in 2019, and 17 sociology and humanities students from State M participated in audit this year.

“Community involvement has a long tradition in the Department of Sociology at Ms. State Fergus Falls. It is wonderful to work in partnership with Otter Tail County Solid Waste so that students can learn more about the values ​​and practices of the community. It was an eye-opening experience. – Dr Sue Wika, M State Instructor

Visit https://ottertailcountymn.us/department/solid-waste/.

food waste
A selection of unopened foods found in the garbage. Proper storage and more careful shopping could reduce food waste being thrown in the trash.


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