Waste Trends Analysis

What is This Project?

For three weeks each summer, Pierce County staff sorts through the county's garbage. We do this to get a better understanding of exactly what goes into our landfill and track how it changes over time.

This project captures just how much garbage going into the landfill from homes and businesses could actually be reduced, reused or recycled. The data collected, when combined with customer feedback and information from other regional studies, will help us create and evaluate effective strategies for reducing waste and increasing recycling in Pierce County.
August 2016

Our Do-it-Yourself Approach

Being able to do the work in-house reduces the cost of sorting, so we can afford to do it annually. More frequent sorts provide more accurate information in real time, and are a more responsive way to evaluate our program.

By sorting the trash ourselves, we have a very clear picture of what's in it. What we learn by tracking the trends in our waste stream will contribute to the design of future programs that help us work together to reduce waste and get recyclables out of the garbage.


Chris Brown
Project Manager
Email or (253) 798-4659

How a waste sort works

Random samples are taken from garbage trucks and from loads brought directly to the transfer station from residents and businesses.
Each sample is weighed to be sure it is about 200 pounds.
The sample is spread out onto a table to be sorted by hand into different categories.
There are 64 categories total, like food waste, clothing, batteries and plastic bottles.
The weight of each category of material is recorded.
The containers are reset and another sort begins.
Image of a horizontal bar chart showing Pierce County's waste characterization