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Solid waste composition

This indicator tracks the composition of disposed municipal solid waste in Washington, showing the estimated amounts of recyclable and non-recyclable materials going to landfills and incinerators.

Waste characterization data shows how purchasing and disposal decisions are changing along with the changing economy, culture, and attitudes. This provides information to track progress on existing or planned programs to reduce and manage wastes, and to recycle and divert more materials to be used as resources. Washington law requires us to conduct periodic characterizations of the state's municipal solid waste. This includes determining solid waste generation rates for each waste category. Doing so helps governments, the waste management industry, and environmental groups plan and measure progress.
 

Material Disposed in MSW 1992 2003 2009
Paper 21.6% 15.7% 11.6%
Plastics 5.7% 6.3% 5.8%
Metals 6.6% 4.7% 4.5%
Glass 3.9% 2.8% 1.4%
Food 11.8% 15.7% 18.3%
Yard debris 7.7% 4.7% 4.6%
Other organics 4.8% 7.0% 8.6%
Construction/demolition debris 9.3% 11.4% 12.4%
Other recyclable 4.3% 4.7% 5.2%
Non-recyclable 24.3% 27.1% 27.4%
Total 100.0% 100.1% 100.0%
A graph showing amounts of disposed materials by type, 1992 - 2013. Data is linked in image caption.

Disposed material in municipal solid waste, 1992 - 2013. View our waste composition trends data.

What are the trends in solid waste?

Trends show that the amount of paper, metals, and glass disposed relative to other materials is dropping. And while the amount of yard debris disposed has dropped, food in the waste stream has increased, along with other organic materials. The amount of construction and demolition debris (including wood) found in municipal solid waste has grown as well, while plastics has remained relatively even.

A graph showing overall statewide disposed waste stream composition by material class, 2009. Image caption includes a link to the 2009 waste characterization study.

Overall statewide disposed waste stream composition by material class, 2009. View the 2009 Washington statewide waste characterization study.

The 2009 Washington Statewide Waste Characterization Study reveals that, in 2009, organic materials made up the largest percentage of the overall statewide disposed waste stream composition, at 27.2 percent. Food scraps, which are a subset of organic materials, made up 18.3 percent of the waste stream, and were the largest single material disposed in landfills. Construction materials followed with 12.8 percent, and then paper products at 9.8 percent.
A graph showing overall statewide disposed waste stream packaging, products and other materials, 2009. Image caption includes a link to the 2009 waste characterization study.

Overall statewide disposed waste stream packaging, products and other materials, 2009. View the 2009 Washington statewide waste characterization study.

The 2009 study took a detailed look at packaging versus products in the waste stream. This analysis is important in light of existing and planned statewide product stewardship efforts and packaging waste prevention initiatives. The study estimated that product waste is 21.9 percent of the waste stream, while packaging waste is 19.1 percent.