When the US EPA issued its latest annual update on waste trends in November 2009, the waste industry's largest trade publication saw the handwriting on the wall.
The article in the December 1, 2009, issue of Waste Age said: "The growth trend between 1960 and 1980 suggested that both the amount of waste generated and landfilled would grow dramatically in subsequent years. However, while 249.6 million tons of MSW [municipal solid waste] were generated in 2008, only 135.1 million tons of that material was disposed in landfills. Disposal at landfills essentially flatlined for the past three decades."
The EPA study also reports (page 9) that incineration has flatlined since 1990. In fact, the amount of waste incinerated declined, per-capita, from a high of just under one pound per person per day in 1990 to just over half a pound in 2008. Less than 13% of US waste is incinerated, a percentage that has also declined since 1990.
The US EPA figures on waste disposal are national averages, showing the broad trends in the United States. But they are entirely consistent with the data from Metro Vancouver's own local waste composition reports, cited in this blog yesterday. Waste disposal here has also flatlined.
Next year's numbers will show a drop in landfill volumes which will last until the recession is over. This is not a good time to be investing in new disposal capacity.
Organics composting is a "recession-proof" waste market. Unlike recycling, composting doesn't rely on global commodity markets. The markets are right here in our own backyard.