Red, White & You, Part II: The West

In the West, with its vast expanses of plains, mountains and deserts, there are many places to dump old tires. Illegal dumping is still a major problem, and many states are cracking down on the practice. Even as they do this, the Western states also are working to boost markets for special waste products such as tires or used oil.

But large states and sparse populations also mean that landfill capacity is ample and affordable, so states sometimes have difficulty making recycling economically attractive. This has forced Western communities to be more creative, working together to build materials exchanges, enact environmentally preferable purchasing policies for state and local government, or make regional recyclable drop-off centers feasible.

Perhaps because towns and counties tend to be rather dispersed in the West, several states also publish annual recycling guides and directories to build awareness and to encourage communities to seek out recycling opportunities. And just as in the East, more Western states appear to be adopting pay-as-you-throw programs as an economic incentive to reduce waste.

Source reduction is a main focus for states across the country. Many states are increasing educational efforts to encourage their residents to reuse materials and not generate waste in the first place.

It should be noted that direct comparison between states is difficult because of differences in reporting (such as cubic yards vs. tons), varying reporting years (calendar year 2000 vs. fiscal year 2001), each state's definition of recycling (such as whether composting is included) and other factors.

For information about states east of the Mississippi River, read “Red, White & You” on page 26 of Waste Age's February 2002 issue, or visit


In a state as large as Alaska, with its many far-flung villages, it is easy to improperly dispose of waste. Every day, the average Alaskan throws away an estimated 6 pounds of garbage, which amounts to more than 3.5 million pounds per day. The state is cracking down on improper solid waste disposal, citing continuing concerns about disease-carrying vectors, air and water pollution, and the attraction of wild animals such as bears and foxes.

To increase recycling and reuse, Alaska has created a materials exchange and the Green Star program, which rewards businesses that encourage waste reduction. The state's beverage container recycling rate is 22 percent.


One of Arizona's main solid waste goals is to generate less waste. As of fiscal year 1998, the state's residents generated 5.9 pounds of trash per person, per day. To lower this amount, the state is working to educate residents about buying products with less packaging, buying in bulk, and maintaining and repairing products instead of buying replacements.

On the plus side, the Grand Canyon State is enjoying a waste diversion rate of about 30.3 percent, which includes recycling, reusing materials, converting waste to energy and other efforts. Arizona's recycling rate, by volume, is about 23 percent.


Arkansas' two primary waste management goals are to continue to implement waste disposal practices that are the most protective of the environment and to clean up contaminated sites. The state has already exceeded its 40 percent recycling goal, having recycled 44 percent of its waste in 1999.

Arkansas also is creating more economic incentives to recycle. The city of Fayetteville, for example, allows residents a one-year allotment of 104 trash bags. If homeowners use more, they must pay for additional bags.


Ever since it passed AB 939, the solid waste bill that established a 50 percent waste diversion goal, California has been a leader in sustainable waste management and recycling. Currently, the state generates about 60 million tons of solid waste, and recycles a full 42 percent of that amount. The state diversion rate has jumped 9 percentage points since 1998, increasing the amount of diverted waste from 18.5 million tons in 1998 to 28 million tons in the year 2000.

California emphasizes market development and “buying recycled,” recycling special wastes such as tires and used oil, strengthening the state's organics recycling infrastructure and fostering sustainable development.


A top priority for Colorado is the cleanup and remediation of hazardous waste and contaminated sites. The state has developed programs to collect and cleanup lead-based paint, agricultural pesticides, electronic devices and other hazardous wastes.

Wherever possible, Colorado residents are encouraged to recycle. Colorado Recycles, a nonprofit organization based in Denver, manages several recycling initiatives. The organization has published a guide to recyclable materials, hosted a recycling hotline and annually awarded a “Recycler of the Year.”


Similar to California, Hawaii has an ambitious recycling goal of 50 percent waste diversion; yet its current recycling rate hovers around 25 percent. According to Recycling Advocates, a nonprofit group in Portland, Ore., Hawaii generates between 5.6 and 6.4 pounds per person, per day.

To help encourage more source reduction and recycling, Recycle Hawaii, a nonprofit based in Hilo, Hawaii, completed a guide to help rural communities develop pay-as-you-throw solid waste management programs. Legislators also have worked in recent years to pass container deposit legislation to increase beverage container recycling rates. So far, however, no bill has successfully passed the state legislature.


Because local governments manage the practice, recycling varies widely in Idaho. The state has no mandated recycling goal, but trys to prevent waste and increase recycling. In recent years, Idaho has helped boost markets for recyclables in rural areas especially, including developing new glass end-products, developing cooperative market strategies for old corrugated containers and researching alternatives to dairy farm waste.

The state also publishes an annual recycling and waste management directory, which helps residents to properly recycle and dispose of a host of materials and hazardous wastes.


Iowa currently has a waste diversion goal of 50 percent. As of fiscal year 2000, the state was diverting more than 34 percent of its waste.

The state has established a multi-pronged approach to increasing recycling. For example, since 1987, Iowa has established more than 600 curbside and 360 drop-off recycling programs, granting more than $35 million for waste diversion programs. The state has also targeted special wastes such as tires and organics. Since 1991, Iowa has collected more than 7.2 million tires and diverted more than 300,000 tons of organic material from the waste stream.


Hazardous waste is a particular concern for Kansans. The state generated nearly 1.7 million tons of hazardous waste in 1999. One company produced about 75 percent of this tonnage — Vulcan Chemicals in Wichita. About 250,000 tons of hazardous waste are burned for energy recovery at state incinerators.

Solid waste landfilling has steadily increased. Net solid waste generation in 2000 was about 5.2 million tons, or 11 pounds per person per day. The state recycling rate is estimated between 15 percent and 17 percent. Future efforts will focus on more accurately measuring the state recycling rate, broadening recycling programs and addressing waste management issues following natural disasters.


Although Louisiana's recycling rate is estimated to be between 15 and 17 percent, the state aims to reduce and divert as much waste as possible from its landfills. For instance, the state procurement process gives a 5 percent preference for recycled-content materials. Lead acid batteries are banned from municipal solid waste facilities, and retailers must take back used vehicle batteries. Louisiana charges a disposal tax of $2 per new tire, and whole tires are banned from landfills.


Landfill capacity is a major concern even in a large state like Minnesota. In 1998, the state generated 5.3 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW), a 6 percent increase over 1997. In the same year, nearly 1.1 million tons of MSW went to the state's 26 landfills, representing 29 percent of the waste stream. If these trends continue, waste generation may triple by 2020, and landfill capacity will be exhausted by 2010.

Yet the state also experienced a 46 percent recycling rate in 1998. Despite this, however, the recycling rate has leveled off. The state plans to develop markets for recycled-content materials, evaluate opportunities to recycle C&D waste and study the effectiveness of pay-as-you-throw programs. The remaining 25 percent of Minnesota's waste was processed at waste-to-energy facilities, refuse-derived fuel facilities and mixed MSW compost facilities.


Missouri natives now can report illegal dumping in an effective and anonymous way — through the state's website. The site is part of a statewide effort to crack down on illegal dumping. Missouri offers free workshops on illegal dumping to local governments and has installed hidden cameras at popular dumping grounds.

Missouri has experienced high participation in its recycling program — diverting 38 percent of its waste from landfills in 2000. That year, the state generated 10.2 million tons of waste, including both MSW and industrial and commercial waste. Daily per capita waste generation was 5.7 pounds in 1999. To increase recycling, among other efforts, state law requires that newspapers report how much recycled-content newsprint they have been using. In 2000, average use was 43 percent.


In a large state like Montana, where it might seem easy to illegally dump tires, the state is making proper tire disposal a priority. For such a big state, the amount of waste tires produced each year — 880,000 — is relatively small. But this also increases the difficulty of programs such as recycling and reuse of tires in civil engineering projects. The state is studying ways to boost the market for waste tires.

Montana also is working to meet its 25 percent recycling goal. Although some estimates put the state's recycling rate near 11 percent, state government does not estimate a recycling rate. But it does purchase recycled-content materials, and certain communities have instituted pay-as-you-throw programs.


Although Nebraska's goal is to reduce waste by 50 percent by 2002, current estimates put the state's recycling rate at about 29 percent, although some counties have reached as high as 40 percent. To increase recycling and reduce waste, the state has instituted several funds that provide grants to assist integrated waste management programs and projects. These programs may include market development for recyclable materials; intermediate processing facilities and facilities using recyclable materials in new products; yard waste composting; waste reduction and waste exchange; household hazardous waste programs; and incineration for energy recovery.


After about five years of recycling growth in Nevada, the amount of waste recycled in the state has steadily declined in the past five years. The Silver State's recycling rate reached 15 percent in 1996, its highest recorded level, and has now fallen to approximately 11 percent in 1999. In 2000, the state disposed of more than 3.3 million tons of MSW from in-state sources, as well as another 544,000 tons from out of state.

As a large state that is primarily desert, Nevada has plenty of affordable landfill space, and recycling markets have been unable to compete with disposal markets for the same materials. Yet the state is attempting to boost recycling participation, for instance, by looking into establishing a recycled-content product procurement policy for state government.

New Mexico

Although New Mexico has a goal to recycle 50 percent of its waste, currently the state recycles only about 12 percent. New Mexicans generate an average of 6.5 pounds of trash daily. That amounted to approximately 2 million tons of MSW (residential and commercial trash) in 1999.

In the future, the state will focus on developing cost-effective solid waste management systems; assisting communities with chronic regulatory compliance problems; prosecuting dumpers and reducing illegal dumping; and implementing groundwater monitoring programs at required sites.

North Dakota

North Dakota is not nearly as densely populated as other states along the coasts, yet its per-capita waste generation rate is on a par with the rest of the country. As of 1999, each North Dakotan resident generated about 4.3 pounds of garbage every day, resulting in 500,000 tons of garbage generated per year, according to state figures.

Yet North Dakotans recycled more than 55,000 tons of trash in 1999, amounting to an 11 percent recycling rate. When composting and waste diversion are included, North Dakota estimates that the state's total recycling rate is closer to 27 percent. The state currently is operating under a recycling goal of 40 percent.


The amount of waste disposed of in Oklahoma in 2000 varied greatly from location to location. The Sooner State has 45 landfills, including five construction and demolition (C&D) debris landfills. Tonnage reported at these facilities ranged from only 5,079 tons at the landfill in Elk City to more than 643,000 tons at the Quarry Landfill in Tulsa.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has launched a multifaceted pollution prevention program aimed at reducing waste and increasing recycling efforts by educating the public about environmental issues and boosting markets for special wastes. Among the types of special wastes are fluorescent lamps and other mercury-containing products.


Oregon has taken steps to boost its recycling rate, even allowing a 2 percent credit to be added to a county's reported recycling rate if it implemented a state-approved recycling or composting program. In 2000, the Beaver State recovered 1,765,820 tons, or 38.9 percent of the total municipal waste stream. That year (the most recent date data was collected), for the first time, Oregonians reversed the trend of disposing more solid waste per person each year.

The amount of MSW disposed in 2000 was approximately 2.78 million tons or 1,617 pounds per person, per year. This is lower than the 1999 rate of 1,690 pounds per person, per year and a disposal total of nearly 2.79 tons.

South Dakota

South Dakota recycles an impressive array of materials. The state publishes a recycling guide that directs households and businesses to recyclers of lumber, concrete, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and other mercury-containing products, used oil, scrap tires and antifreeze. The state maintains a 50 percent recycling goal, and recent estimates put the state's 1997 recycling rate at 42 percent, with a source reduction rate of 43 percent in 1999.


Everything is big in Texas, including waste disposal. In 2000, the state disposed of 28.6 million tons of waste, representing 7.5 pounds per person per day. Yet the state is expected to have enough landfill capacity left to last up to 31 years. Still, this capacity is not evenly distributed throughout the state, with some areas having less than 10 years of landfill space remaining.

In 2000, Texas accepted more than 47,200 tons of out-of-state waste, with about 7,200 tons coming from Mexico. Still, Texas was a net exporter by about 464,000 tons.

Many landfills are doing their part to preserve capacity, however. Of the 227 landfills open at the end of 2000, 37 percent diverted waste for recycling and reuse, totaling 63,165 tons. Nearly 35 percent of the landfills diverted yard waste for composting or mulching, totaling 264,015 tons.


Municipal waste generated in Utah totaled 2.4 million tons in 2000. Based on current population numbers, this equates to a waste generation rate of 5.97 pounds per person per day. C&D waste disposal has grown from 414,000 tons in 1994 to 1.1 million tons in 2000. The state does not have information on how many tons of waste are exported, but in 2000, the state imported 65,844 tons of MSW and 298,616 tons of industrial waste for disposal.

Because recycling is performed by the private sector, the state does not maintain recycling figures. However, programs are in place statewide to collect metals, paper, cardboard, tires, oil, plastic, and glass.


In 1999, residents and businesses in Washington generated about 6.5 million tons of waste, amounting to nearly 7.78 pounds per person, per day. In contrast to many other states, Washington's recycling rate is dropping. In 1990, the state was recycling about 34 percent of its solid waste. By 1999, that figure had dropped to 32.5 percent. Still, the state is placing a strong emphasis on recycling and source reduction. For example, grants are available to local governments for waste reduction, recycling and composting programs.

In the future, the state is working toward complete sustainability, hoping to move to zero waste by boosting markets for special wastes such as tires.


As is the case elsewhere, the number of MSW landfills in Wyoming is gradually declining. Currently, the state maintains 58 active municipal solid waste landfills. But landfills are closing because of the economies of scale realized through consolidation, groundwater impacts leading to closure for technical reasons and older facilities reaching capacity.

Yet Wyoming residents are active recyclers, doing whatever it takes to make recycling a reality. Although larger towns such as Casper and Cheyenne operate drop-off centers, volunteers run recycling programs in smaller communities. They accumulate recyclable materials until transportation becomes cost effective, often coordinating their efforts with neighboring communities to be more efficient.

Kim O'Connell is a Waste Age contributing editor based in Arlington, Va.