Purposes of Solid Waste Characterization

The general purpose of solid waste characterization is to promote sound management of solid waste. Specifically, characterization can determine the following:

The size, capacity, and design of facilities to manage the waste.

The potential for recycling or composting portions of the waste stream.

The effectiveness of waste reduction programs, recycling programs, or bans on the disposal of certain materials. Potential sources of environmental pollution in the waste.

In practice, the immediate purpose of most waste characterization studies, including many extensive studies, is to comply with specific regulatory mandates and to provide information for use by vendors in preparing bids to design, construct, and operate solid waste management facilities.

The purposes of a waste characterization program determine the design of it. If all waste is to be landfilled, the characterization program should focus on the quantity of waste, its density, and its potential for compaction. The composition of the waste and its chemical characteristics are relatively unimportant. If all waste is to be incinerated, the critical parameters are quantity, heat value, and the percentage of combustible material in the waste. If recycling and composting are planned or underway, a composition study can identify the materials targeted for recovery, estimate their abundance in the waste, and monitor compliance with source separation requirements.

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