Less Waste to Wisconsin Landfills in 2009; Reflects National Trend

Date: July 27, 2010

Source: News Room

Less waste disposed of in Wisconsin landfills in 2009

  • Weekly News Article Published: July 27, 2010 by the Central Office

MADISON - The amount of waste sent to landfills in Wisconsin decreased sharply in 2009, according to data compiled by the Department of Natural Resources. The amount of out-of-state waste disposed of in state landfill declined even faster than waste generated within the state.

Every year, landfills are required to report to the DNR the tonnages of all waste received at their facilities from both in-state and out-of-state sources.

The total amount of waste disposed of in landfills in 2009 dropped 15 percent, from 10.3 millions tons in 2008 to 8.8 million tons, in 2009. Waste from households, institutions and commercial establishments (referred to as municipal solid waste) dropped the most -- 22 percent from 2008 to 2009 (6.2 to 4.8 million tons).

During the same period, waste coming to Wisconsin landfills from other states decreased 31 percent. After peaking in 2004 at 2.2 million tons, out-of-state waste has fallen by almost half. The 2009 total of 1.2 million tons was the lowest since 1997. The majority of out-of-state waste comes from Illinois and Minnesota.

The amount of waste coming to Wisconsin landfills may be down for several reasons, according to Ann Coakley, director of the DNR Waste and Materials Management Program.
"The economic downturn that began in 2008 led many households and businesses to scale back purchases in 2009, which means less material was thrown away," she said. "We are seeing this pattern all over the country. In addition, high fuel prices probably discouraged long-distance hauling of waste into Wisconsin."

Coakley said an increase in the state landfill tipping fee also may have reduced the amount of waste disposed of by communities and made it less attractive to haul out-of-state waste to Wisconsin landfills for disposal. The state's tipping fee on municipal waste rose from about $6 per ton to nearly $13 per ton in 2009.

The state-imposed landfill tipping fee varies according to the type of waste thrown away. Revenue from tipping fees is used to support the state recycling program and other state environmental and energy programs.

For complete 2009 landfill tonnage report is available on the waste management pages of the DNR website, along with more information on Wisconsin's waste imports and exports.

Ann Coakley - (608) 261-8449

View the report: dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/wm/publications/anewpub/wa1423.pdf.

Summary Statistics:

The overall amount of waste landfilled in Wisconsin has increased over the past decade, though the amount of waste generated and landfilled in-state is about the same as it was 10 years ago. The amount of waste coming from other states-primarily municipal solid waste-has tripled during that time period and represented close to one-fifth of all waste landfilled in Wisconsin in 2008 (the last year for which complete numbers are available).

  • 10.2 million tons of solid waste (municipal and industrial) were disposed of in Wisconsin landfills in 2008, down 5.8 percent from the amount in 2007.

There are currently 70 operating, licensed landfills in Wisconsin. This is down from 1,158 in 1980, when there were many small landfills and dumps operated by municipalities. There were 861 landfills in 1989 and 85 in 1999. The number of landfills has declined sharply over the years after the state and federal governments began adopting new standards in the 1970s. The new rules required the use of thick, clay liners; leachate collection systems; gas collection and treatment systems; and other design and engineering practices that reduce impacts on groundwater and air quality.

  • 70 operating licensed landfills, including 35 municipal solid waste
    (MSW) landfills and 35 industrial waste landfills

  • 29 approved construction and demolition (C&D) waste sites

  • 103 transfer stations

  • 46 solid waste processing facilities

  • 3 solid waste incinerators

  • 3 solid waste compost facilities

  • 600 closed landfills monitored regularly to detect potential groundwater and environmental contamination

  • 343 compliance inspections at solid waste disposal and processing facilities and 190 recycling program audits and inspections at compost or materials recovery facilities conducted by program staff


  • 1,060 local government responsible units (RUs) with recycling Programs

  • 424,000 tons of paper and containers were recycled by residential recycling programs in 2008, an increase of 3.1 percent from the 411,000 tons recycled in 2007.

  • 213 residential composting programs collected 276,000 tons of yard materials, up 15 percent from 2007; we estimate residents composted another 250,000 tons at home

  • An estimated 2.6 million pounds (1,300 tons) of electronics scrap collected through 111 residential recycling programs 83 materials recovery facilities (MRFs) serving local government recycling programs

  • 214 yard waste compost facilities

  • 20 facilities composting food scraps, up from 14 in 2008, and at least 10 additional projects in development

  • 15 facilities licensed to recycle tear-off asphalt shingles, up from 11 in 2008 and 5 in 2007. These facilities received more than 83,400 tons of shingles in 2009.

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