More than 83 percent of waste entering landfills could be diverted, report says

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The life of the NABORS landfile in Baxter County, shown here, could be potentially extended by decades, if residents and businesses in the six-county area whose solid waste ends up there would take recycling more seriously, according to a new report. Photo from Solid Waste Management Division / Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

CARROLL COUNTY -- Every man, woman and child in Carroll County is producing 1,679 pounds of solid waste every year -- that's 4.6 pounds every day, according to a new report released by the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District (NAEDD).

That amounts to 22,951 tons of garbage created by Carroll Countians every year, and 86 percent of it ends up in landfills.

It doesn't have to be this way, the report, "Recycling and Waste Stream Characterization 2007-2008," points out.

"In one surprising assessment, it was estimated that in an ideal scenario, as much as 83.6 percent of the region's current waste stream might be diverted from the landfill for recycling or composting," Bill Lord, solid waste program director for NAEDD, said in releasing the report. "This would involve the removal of food scraps and yard waste for composting, and the recycling of 100 percent of the paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and metal."

Lord said that while attaining such a percentage of recycling is not necessarily feasible in reality, it does provide a goal that the district could benefit by reaching toward. "Every ton of waste that is diverted from the landfill, particularly for recycling or reuse, helps preserve this important landfill resource for the benefit of our own citizens," he said.

The study revealed that recycling all plastics, paper and cardboard could result in as much as $9 million in landfilling costs saved, and recycling revenues generated.

Four easily-recycled or composted items account for well over half of what ends up in landfills, the report showed. Paper leads the way at 32.7 percent, followed by yard trimmings at 12.8 percent, food scraps at 12.5 percent and plastics at 12.1 percent. The remainder of landfill makeup consists of wood, rubber, leather, textiles, metals and glass.

Carroll is one of six counties which make up the Northwest Arkansas Regional Solid Waste Management District. The county partners with Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Searcy. The district owns and operates the NABORS Landfill in Baxter County, which is the primary and almost exclusive landfill serving the six-county region.

Taken together, the six counties produced 116,244 tons of solid waste in 2007. Only 7.3 percent of that total was recycled. Twelve percent of the waste was unaccounted for, either ending up at unreported landfills elsewhere, or, either illegally dumped or burned.

Carroll County had one major distinction in the report: 3,852 tons of solid waste was recycled -- more recycling than the rest of the counties in the district combined. The report noted that Tyson Foods, which has implemented a major recycling effort, was responsible for a large amount of that figure. Tyson and other businesses in Carroll County reported recycling 2,615 tons of material.

The purpose of the report is to organize and interpret data about the volume and characteristics of the solid waste generated, recycled and disposed of in the district to help decision makers plan for the future and to find ways to divert additional waste from NABORS, Lord said.

It is available online at www.nwaedd.org/waste. The Web site also has useful information about recycling, disposal options for unusual items such as tires and household hazardous waste, and links to other helpful resources.

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