Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Notes from the Field: Checking in on our waste streams

In January, we had several Talkin’ Trash blog posts about the Montgomery County’s waste stream. Inspector Boyle, from Collections, took us to the Recycling Center to talk about paper contamination in the waste stream. We also peeked into the January 2013 Quarterly "Tip and Sort" sampling to find out more about what is in our waste stream.

Our field sampling and sorting studies help us quantify and characterize the solid waste originating from residential (single-family and multi-family) and non- residential (commercial, institutional and industrial) sources received at the County’s Solid Waste Transfer Station.

Last week, we held our latest Tip and Sort. Workers carefully sifted samples of incoming loads into pre-defined categories. See more sorting photos.

Workers separate trash and recyclables into categories.

What do these quarterly studies mean for the average resident? We use the collected data and its analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of our outreach, and see how we might improve our programs and services.

After speaking with Ray Liou, a Division of Solid Waste Services engineer and the Tip and Sort program manager, I got a better understanding of what some of the statistics mean for residents. He explained that these numbers help the Division see what areas of our programs are successful and what types of recycling need more attention. They also provide an indication of which sectors of the county might benefit from more outreach.

So when the study is released, here’s my cheat sheet for analyzing the data for trends in our trash:

  1. What is the impact of the Carryout Bag Law on our waste stream? We expect to see a decreased amount of shopping bag plastics in our waste stream.
    Plastic shopping bag
    Paradoxically, as the amount of recyclables removed from the waste stream increases, the percent of other material types remaining in the trash may increase, too. One of these materials may be food waste.
  2. How can we reduce food waste from our waste stream?Simple composting of coffee grounds is a great start!

We’ll continue to update you on the progress of our Tip and Sort waste stream evaluations and find out where they will take us!

-- Jessica Fusillo, Collections Communications

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