Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Waste Management

Waste Characterization and Analysis

Waste characterization is a method used to determine the types of materials being discarded in a waste stream and in what proportion. Waste characterization information can help policy makers and city planners reduce landfill waste, set up recycling programs, and conserve money and resources. In fact, a waste characterisation study typically precedes waste diversion studies and strategies.

Rationale of Waste Characterisation

Characterisation studies allow cities to map their entire waste stream and to identify gaps so that they can focus their efforts on diverting the most appropriate materials that will have the greatest impact.

Depending on local conditions, material types selected for study can be based on volume generated difficulty of collection and processing, or recyclability and reuse potential. Each city will have to determine for themselves which material types and selection criteria make the most sense, but having this information will make the process easier and improve diversion efforts.

To conduct a characterisation study, data must be collected by taking representative samples of waste and sorting it into material types like newspaper and aluminum cans, and weighing each type.

Read Also : Waste Sampling Equipment and Waste Sampling Procedures

Samples can be taken from trucks delivering waste to landfills and transfer stations from residential, commercial, and self-haul sources. The following are the major steps to complete a waste characterisation study:

Select Approach: Landfill sampling, waste generator sampling, use of existing data, combination of approaches

Collect Representative Data: select samples for field studies, determine number of samples needed

Use Protocols: uniform field sorting protocols, material type definitions, lumping material categories, classifying composites

Health and Safety: determine safety protocol before conducting field studies

Data Analysis: random sampling (landfill) vs. subdivision of sectors (generator).

Why Waste Analysis?

Waste products must be used or disposed of with environmentally sound management practices in order to prevent damage to our natural resources. Farms’ food-processing plants, textile manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, wood and paper producers, and municipalities all generate a variety of waste products the disposal of which must be managed somewhat differently depending upon the source and the intended use.

Waste managers therefore require sound knowledge of waste constituents before choosing and applying appropriate management procedure. Waste analysis also helps toxicologists to determine the individual constituents of waste and the potential toxic effects of the waste to both the environment and humans.

Planning Waste Analysis

The planning of waste analysis program or activity will take into account the following

Type of sampling

Number and type of stratum

Level of sampling

Type of sampling unit

Calculation of sample size

Generation of random sample plan, and

Duration of waste analysis

Execution of Waste Analysis

In conclusion, the fieldwork associated with the collection and transport of samples will account for a substantial proportion of the total cost of a monitoring programme.

Waste Characterization and Analysis

Sampling expeditions should, therefore, be planned and carried out in such a way that efforts are not wasted. If, for example, an essential piece of equipment is forgotten or an inadequately described sampling station cannot be found, the value of that particular sampling expedition is seriously compromised.

Read Also : Checklist for Waste Sampling

Similarly, if unrealistic estimates of travel time are made and an expedition takes longer than intended, samples may be held longer than the maximum allowable storage time and the results of analyses will be of questionable value.

It is advisable to carry out a pilot programme before the routine monitoring programme begins. This can be used as a training exercise for new personnel and will provide the opportunity to make a final selection of sampling stations on the basis of whether they are representative of the whole site as well as readily accessible.

Programme managers and laboratory personnel should accompany field personnel on field expeditions from time to time. This provides opportunities for field supervision as part of in-service training and for everyone working on the programme to appreciate the problems and needs of the field work.


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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