In this guide, we look at the most common types of waste found in land fills in different cities and countries.
Knowing this information may help us come up with more effective solutions and strategies for waste management, such as starting from the types of waste we might look at preventing or reducing.
Summary – Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Landfills (What’s In Landfills)
According to data from municipal waste records, paper and paperboard, food, yard trimmings, plastics, and metals are some of the most common waste material types.
Wood, textiles, glass, rubber and leather, and other types of waste round out the others.
Of the above waste, the most common waste that went to landfill was food, plastics, and paper and paperboard.
Metals, wood, yard trimmings, textiles, glass, rubber and leather, and inorganic waste rounded out the others
Both Australian and US waste data show a large % of domestic waste coming from food waste, with yard trimmings being the other component of organic waste
But, waste doesn’t only come from the municipal/domestic sector – it also comes from the commercial and industrial sectors
If we look at Australia as just one example, about 40% of their waste is from construction and demolition, and the commercial sector as a whole produces about a third of all waste (going on 2013-14 numbers)
But, waste records of other countries may show that quantity of commercial and industrial waste outweighs municipal waste by an incredibly significant margin.
In the EU – construction, and mining and quarrying waste lead other waste types by far industrially
In the UK, it’s the same.
Waste type shares can differ between different cities and municipalities, as well as sectors and businesses.
More Information On Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Landfills
Most common Municipal Solid Waste generated in 2015 (in the US in total – landfill, recycling, composting etc.) was (per EPA.gov):
– Waste Generated
Paper and paperboard – 25.9%
Food – 15.1%
Yard Trimmings – 13.2%
Plastics – 13.1%
Metals – 9.1%
Wood – 6.2%
Textiles – 6.1%
Glass – 4.4%
Rubber and Leather – 3.2%
Other – 2.0%
Miscellaneous Inorganic Waste – 1.5%
…. Based on the above, the breakdown for waste generated going to landfill was:
Food – 22%
Plastics – 18.9%
Paper & Paperboard – 13.3%
Metals – 9.5%
Wood – 8%
Yard Trimmings – 7.8%
Textiles – 7.6%
Glass – 5.1%
Rubber & Leather – 3.3%
Miscellaneous Inorganic Waste – 2.3%
Other – 2.2%
According to waste.zendesk.com:
Food waste is the most common material found in U.S. landfills.
It is the single largest component of the municipal waste we discard, accounting for more than 20 percent of the material arriving at landfills and incinerators.
We currently recycle less than 3% of food waste.
Waste in landfills falls into three major categories: household rubbish, commercial and industrial waste, and construction and demolition waste.
The average domestic bin contains 60% organic material, with the bulk coming from food (40%) and garden waste (20%).
In 2013-14, the commercial sector generated 17 million tonnes of waste, representing just under a third of all waste in Australia. Around 7 million tonnes ended up in landfill.
Around 40% of Australia’s waste, or some 19 million tonnes a year, comes from construction and demolition.
This typically includes timber, concrete, plastics, wood, metals, cardboard, asphalt and mixed site debris such as soil and rocks.
However, only 8.5 million tonnes ended up in landfill …
In terms of industrial waste:
Waste generation in EU-28 in 2012 by sector (industrial) was:
Construction – 33%
Mining & Quarrying – 29%
Manufacturing – 11%
Households – 8%
Waste Treatment – 7%
Services – 5%
Energy Supply – 4%
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing – 2%
Wholesale Of Waste & Scrap – 1%
Water Treatment – 1%
Estimated Total Annual Waste by Sector (industrial) in the UK in 2004 was:
Construction & Demolition – 31.7%
Mining & Quarrying – 28.8%
Industrial – 12.5%
Commercial – 12.3%
Household – 9.5%
Dredged Materials – 4.7%
Sewage Sludge – 0.6%
Agriculture (inc. Fishing) – 0.2%
Different Types Of Waste – Municipal (Residential) vs Industrial
In addition to municipal and residential waste, there is industrial waste which can be hard to measure and quantify.
So, when you look at waste numbers from landfills, understand that this only tells part of the total waste story.
Commercial, and construction/demolition waste are also considered different types of waste, as well as hazardous waste.
So, landfills might be divided up into the following categories (depending on the country):
Commercial, industrial (inc. construction/demolition)
Hazardous waste (which needs to be treated in it’s own way)