Waste Characterization

National Expert: Stacey Demers

To design and monitor a solid waste program effectively, it is necessary to assess disposal practices and understand the content of the waste stream. Waste characterization studies, or waste composition studies and audits, supply this necessary information. Data gathered during waste sampling can present a complete picture of disposal, which we use to:

  • Provide an analysis of the efficacy of current waste diversion programs
  • Identify new diversion opportunities
  • Determine the mix of recyclables collected in designated recycling programs
  • Identify the potential for wastetoenergy (WTE) projects using selected waste streams.
SCS Engineers waste characterization
SCS projects range from informal single-site waste audits to state-wide waste generation studies analyzing diversion and disposal.

SCS Engineers developed the first national methodology for conducting waste composition studies for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This same methodology was subsequently used as the basis for the ASTM Standard D5231-92 (1990,’94, ’98)Standard Test Method for Determination of the Composition of Unprocessed Municipal Solid Waste, which is widely recognized as the national standard.

SCS Engineers is one of a select number of firms that have conducted waste-characterization studies to evaluate local, regional, and national trends. The scope of SCS’s projects ranges from informal, single-site waste auditsto state-wide waste generation studies that incorporate disposal and diversion activities.

SCSs waste characterization studies can:

  • Enhance the effectiveness of waste diversion programs
  • Establish the feasibility of alternative disposal technologies
  • Develop strategies to achieve zero-waste goals
  • Identify alternative procurement practices
  • Improve recycling programs
  • Realize cost savings from recycling and reduced trash service


Watch an educational video featuring regional and state studies and how they are used to lower GHG, improve recycling programs, plan for infrastructure, and improve collections to reduce contamination.