What is a Waste Stream Characterization?

What is a Waste Stream Characterization?

Waste characterization means finding out how much paper, glass, food waste, etc. is discarded in your waste stream, according to CalRecycle. Waste characterization information helps in planning how to reduce waste, set up recycling programs, and conserve money and resources.

Who should use this information?

Waste characterization information is designed for solid waste planning; however, anyone interested in the characteristics of the solid waste stream may find it useful.

How is the data collected?

Depending on the size of the characterization (ie: home, business, municipality), the process can vary. Your local landfill would have thousands of pounds of waste to sort, so they’ll be utilizing machines and other tools. But here at PPN we use plastic bins, tarps, trash grabbers and a scale. We’ve got about 13 different bins available. They’re all labeled with the type of waste that goes in each one. There’s a recyclable plastics bin, a paper bin, a food waste bin, a hazardous bin, an aluminum bin, a glass bin and many more. As we open up the bags of waste, all of the participants sort the waste into its proper bin. As the bins fill up, we weigh them and write down the data.

What do you do with the Waste Stream Characterization data?

We compile all the data into an excel spreadsheet that contains the data from all of the past years’ waste stream characterization events. Then we compare and contrast the data with previous years. For example, one year we noticed a high amount of Styrofoam. Styrofoam is hard to recycle and even harder on the Earth. The next year, we focused out environmental education efforts on why Styrofoam is bad for Earth in an attempt to reduce the usage. And it worked! The next year we saw lower totals than ever. And that’s just one example. As we continue to compile information we can focus our solid waste efforts to ultimately turn PPN into a zero waste community!

You might want to think about completing your own waste stream characterization at home to try and prevent pollution right at home! If you want more information or guidance, please contact us at the PPN Offices at (707) 463-1454 extension 116.

For more information on Waste Stream Characterization, check out the CalRecyle page.

Check out pictures of our 2019 PPN Waste Stream Characterization event held on June 13 & 14 in collaboration with the Berkeley Graduate and Undergrad students below!