Organic Waste, Paper and Plastic are the Top Three Components in Iowa Trashcans
Posted: 09/22/2011

Des Moines, Iowa – A statewide study of nine landfills used by Iowans revealed the top three components entering the state’s waste stream, by weight, are organic waste, paper products and plastics.

“These results aren’t particularly surprising,” says Brian Tormey, chief of the DNR Land Quality Bureau. “But the detailed information gathered from the study provides verifiable evidence as to the extent these materials are being landfilled.”

The 2011 study shows Iowa is doing a good job of diverting traditional recyclables (plastic containers, glass and certain paper products such as newsprint and office paper) from the landfill.  However, there continues to be opportunities to divert such wastes as compostable organics (food and yard waste), cardboard, and construction and demolition debris.

“These results will help the DNR, and solid waste planning areas improve existing solid waste programs,” says Tormey. “For example, the information will help us plan and assist solid waste planning areas in development of programs or facilities that can manage or recycle targeted portions of the solid waste stream.”

In the study, trash was gathered from two sectors, residential and industrial/commercial/institutional and was broken down by type. The top three waste types from the two sectors combined were organic, 25.5 percent; paper, 25.2 percent; and plastic, 16.7 percent.

The study was conducted in the spring and early summer of this year by a team from MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants, Cascadia Consulting Group and Foth Infrastructure & Environment.  Similar studies were conducted in 1998 and 2005. The final report of the 2011 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study can be viewed online at