In the guide below, we outline the most common types of waste found in landfills in different countries.
Knowing this information may help us come up with more effective solutions and strategies for waste management.
This guide compliments our separate guides on the most common types of waste found in the ocean and on beaches, and the most littered types of waste.
Summary – Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Landfills
Most Common Waste Found In Municipal/Residential Landfills
Organic waste makes up a large % of the waste in municipal waste landfill sites in several developed countries
Organic waste can include waste such as food waste, and yard waste like lawn trimmings
Behind organic waste, plastic and also paper are some of the most common types of waste found in municipal landfill sites
Commercial & Industrial Waste
Commercial and industrial waste is usually separated from municipal waste as a different type of waste, and can go into different cells at the same landfill site, or can go to different landfill sites altogether where they have their own dedicated landfill sites. For example, some landfill sites are dedicated construction and demolition waste landfill sites
It can be difficult to get data on the commercial and industrial waste going to landfill sites (compared to getting data on municipal waste)
However, what we can get data on is the types of waste that make up different shares of all commercial and industrial waste
Construction and demolition waste tends to make up the highest % of all commercial and industrial waste in several countries and regions, with mining and quarrying waste in second place
So, it’s possible that majority of commercial and industrial waste that goes to landfill sites could be construction and demolition waste, or mining and quarrying waste
These types of waste can have their own dedicated landfill sites too
Different Landfill Sites Accept Different Types Of Waste
For example, in addition to municipal solid waste landfill sites, and commercial and industrial waste landfill sites, some landfill sites only accept specific types of toxic or hazardous waste
So, the most common waste found at landfills can depend on the type of landfill site it is, and the waste types it accepts (which can be based on what regulations there are in the area, the licenses the landfill site holds, the design and capabilities on the landfill site, and more)
Different Landfill Sites Have Different Waste Cells/Pits
Different landfill sites have different waste cells/pits that contain different types of waste
We outline the waste categories different cells might store in the guide below
Open Waste Dumping Sites
In some cities and countries, there are few or no contained landfill sites with regulated pits.
Instead, waste can be dumped all in one, in one open dumping site.
Different cities also have different types of landfill sites that accept different types of waste
Different cities may also have higher recycling and composting rates, and may divert much more waste away from landfills than others
Different cities may also have much higher mismanaged waste rates, and more waste may end up in the environment than average (and not landfills). This can be the case with certain regions in the world and plastic waste mismanagement rates
All these things can impact the types of waste that end up in landfills, and, the waste that ends up in landfill only tell a portion of a city’s waste footprint story
Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Landfills – Municipal & Residential
Waste in landfills falls into three major categories: household rubbish, commercial and industrial waste, and construction and demolition waste (theconversation.com)
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%
…. Of the waste generated, the breakdown of waste 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.
The average domestic bin contains 60% organic material, with the bulk coming from food (40%) and garden waste (20%).
Data On Commercial Waste & Industrial Waste, & Construction & Demolition Waste
Note that the numbers below aren’t waste in landfill data, but rather waste generated data to get an idea of what types of commercial and industrial waste might be found in the highest %’s in landfills.
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 …
– Industrial Waste
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%
– Industrial Waste
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 Commercial & Industrial vs Other
Something we’ve outlined elsewhere on the site is the different major types of waste.
Apart from municipal/residential waste, there’s also commercial and industrial waste to consider.
Some reports include construction and demolition waste in commercial and industrial waste, and some separate the two.
There’s also specialty waste such as toxic or hazardous waste to consider.
Different Types Of Landfill Sites, & The Waste They Allow
There can be different types of landfill sites that allow different types of waste.
Different Cells In Landfill Sites
Landfill sites can have different waste cells, which are engineered, regulated and contained pits that hold different types of waste.
We wrote more about landfill cells in this guide.