Introduction to Status of Missouri's Waste Reduction Goal

The goal of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is to help Missourians live and work in harmony with our natural and cultural resources. The department both makes decisions and assists Missourians with making choices that will result in a quality environment and a place where they can prosper.

The department’s solid waste management efforts have resulted in real environmental improvements. It is important to remember that any efforts affecting solid waste management should be designed to find long-term solutions as opposed to short-sighted answers.

Solid waste management is continually changing because of public concerns, legislative trends and changes in the economy and in the business world. The following report provides a comprehensive overview of Missouri’s achievements pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 530, signed into law in 1990, and the many external factors affecting the results.

This detailed analysis is provided to explain the progress made in Missouri in relation to the 40 percent reduction goal by Jan. 1, 1998. It also provides a national perspective of our accomplishments and discusses future initiatives to guide our waste diversion efforts. I believe this analysis to be a useful educational tool for the agency, for our constituency and for the legislature. The facts and analysis presented represent a synthesis of state and national information and trends in solid waste management.

Executive Summary

Senate Bill 530 was signed into law in 1990. The law called upon DNR to draw up a model plan for solid waste reduction and set a 40 percent solid waste reduction goal as a benchmark in the development of district solid waste management plans.

In 1990, Missourians sent 6.8 million tons of solid waste to landfills. That amounted to 2,660 pounds per person per year, or 7.3 pounds per person per day. At the end of 1997, per person solid waste disposal had dropped to 2,040 pounds per person per year, or about 5.6 pounds of waste per person per day. This translates to a 30 percent reduction in the waste flow to landfills for Missouri.

Since 1990, the flow of solid waste to landfills in Missouri has been reduced by at least 30 percent. This reduction was prompted by mandates under the Solid Waste Law that banned the landfilling of major appliances, whole tires, waste oil and lead batteries effective Jan. 1, 1991. Under the same law, yard waste was banned effective Jan. 1, 1992.

Also effective in moving Missouri toward a 40 percent reduction in solid waste disposal by 1998 was the establishment of a Solid Waste Management Fund and four associated grant programs that have supported the creation and implementation of local solid waste management initiatives.

While the current solid waste statistics show that progress has been made, considerable work remains to be done to achieve further diversion of the waste flow through reduction, reuse, and recycling. The 1997 national recycling average was approximately 28 percent, so Missouri is moving in the right direction. Also, state statistical bases don’t consider the increases in per person waste generation that are due to a robust economy. When people have more to spend, business, industry and individuals generate more waste.

Buying recycled products remains the most essential factor in closing the recycling loop. Efforts are underway to increase recycling opportunities in Missouri’s rural areas and encourage cooperative marketing techniques that will eventually develop stronger markets for recovered materials. As long as landfill disposal costs in Missouri remain lower than the cost of recycling, it will continue to be a challenge to increase the percentage of waste being diverted from landfills.

Status of Waste Reduction Goal

Statement of Issue:
Senate Bill (SB) 530, signed into law July 1990, established a statewide 40 percent reduction goal for solid waste disposal by Missourians. By late 1996 the waste reduction rate was at 33 percent. At the end of 1997 the rate was at 30 percent. This report defines the nature and status of Missouri’s waste reduction goal.

How The Goal Was Defined:
The 40 percent reduction goal established by SB 530 was developed as a planning tool and a gauge of successful solid waste management plan implementation. Section 260.225.2 RSMo states that "The department shall prepare model solid waste management plans suitable for rural and urban areas which may be used by districts, counties and cities." Under this directive, the department’s Solid Waste Management Program created the Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management Program Model Plan Guidelines. The model plan was constructed to conform with the requirements of Sections 260.220 to 260.345 RSMo, including Section 260.225.2(3) RSMo, which states, that it " designed to achieve a reduction of 40 percent in solid waste disposed, by weight, by Jan. 1, 1998."

Legislated Reduction:
Some progress in waste reduction was guaranteed in SB 530 with bans that went into effect on Jan. 1, 1991, prohibiting the landfilling of major appliances, whole tires, waste oil and lead-acid batteries. SB 530 also banned yard waste from landfills effective Jan. 1, 1992. Establishment of the Solid Waste Management Fund, and the four associated grant programs, provided another effective tool for statewide waste reduction.

However, the fund and the landfill bans are not formally connected in the legislation to the 40 percent reduction goal. Timely creation and implementation of local solid waste management plans has always been perceived as the best potential tool for achieving a 40 percent reduction in Missouri waste disposal, and it is only in the requirements for creation of the model plan that the goal is referenced in the law.

Progress To Date:
The model plan was constructed to conform with the requirements of Sections 260.220 to 260.345 RSMo and to meet the 40 percent reduction goal. However, the department’s goal to maximize the waste reduction in Missouri is ongoing. The department’s goal is to promote an integrated approach to solid waste management using a combination of alternatives. The program will continue to provide technical information on short and long-range planning to Missouri’s solid waste management districts, counties and cities in an effort to achieve that goal.

The department’s Solid Waste Management Program strives to obtain the most accurate data on waste reduction possible. The method for tracking waste reduction has evolved over time, but the program’s current method of tracking still uses 1990 as the base year for measurement. In accordance with the SB 530 goal, an estimate was made of Missourian’s waste disposal for the base year of 1990. The base year estimate concluded that 6.8 million tons of solid waste was sent to landfills for disposal in 1990. That is 2,660 pounds per person per year, or 7.3 pounds per person per day.

Since October 1990, Missouri waste disposal facilities have been required by law to report the amount of waste received on a quarterly basis. These tonnage reports include in-state waste disposal and waste that is exported out of state through transfer stations. Waste hauled across state lines without going through a transfer station is estimated by phone survey of landfills in the states bordering Missouri. Disposal totals are the sum of the tonnage report and the export survey.

To control for population, census projections from the Office of Administration, Division of Budget and Planning, were used to determine per person disposal rates for each year. This calculation yielded the yearly total solid waste disposal adjusted for population. These numbers include industrial and commercial waste disposal.

Waste reduction figures for all years from 1990 through 1997 are noted in Figure 1. Historically this number has fluctuated due to a variety of factors, including enactment of legislation, market demand for recovered material, landfill closures and import/export trends. The 1997 reduction estimate posts a three percent drop from the 33 percent figure in 1996. However, per-capita disposal is shown to have decreased significantly since 1990 (Figure 2).

Waste reduction figures from 1990-1997
Figure 1
Graph showing that disposal has decreased significantly since 1990.
Figure 2

In 1990, per person solid waste disposal was 2,660 pounds per year. At the end of calendar year 1997, per person solid waste disposal was 2,040 pounds per year, a reduction of 620 pounds per person per year. The per capita disposal rates jumped slightly from 1996 and 1997 and seem to be inversely proportional to the dip in reduction. The same phenomena may be noted for the period between the years of 1993 through 1996.

Economic Adjustments:

Factors that may have an effect on the waste reduction rate include a robust period of economic activity and the constant per-capita generation rate. The constant generation rate was decided upon to avoid the yearly task of attempting to determine actual generation. While this has been useful for purposes of calculating reduction rates, it is presumable that the generation rate fluctuates with the prevailing economic climate.

During the last five years the nation has shown a steady increase in personal consumption expenditures for durable goods, non-durable goods and services (see Figure 3). Missouri figures also show a dramatic increase in retail sales (Figure 4). With increased consumer purchasing, one could expect a resultant increase in waste generation.

Graph showing expenditures for durable goods, non-durable goods and services.
Figure 3
Graph showing Missouri has a dramatic increase in retail sales.
Figure 4

This increase in consumerism is moderated by source reduction and reduced packaging initiatives yet nonetheless results in economically-driven elevated generation rates. We consider this factor and Missouri’s increasing population largely contribute to the dip in reduction. If this cyclic generation rate could be calculated accurately and incorporated into Missouri’s reduction estimates during the past few years of economic prosperity, the amount of reduction would be shown to increase. An article in the July l, 1998 issue of Waste Age’s Recycling Times reports Minnesota, a state considered to be at the national forefront of waste reduction and recycling, has experienced a 23 percent increase in municipal solid waste generation from 1991 through 1996. Using Minnesota’s 23 percent increase as an example: If Missouri had a similar increase in waste generation over time, its waste reduction rate would be at 43 percent.

National Considerations:

According to BioCycle Magazine (May 1998) in its annual survey of the nation, 15 states have disposal bans on materials not banned in Missouri. These wastes include the following: mercury batteries, demolition debris, scrap autos, non-degradable grocery bags, carbonated beverage containers and liquor bottles with deposits, NiCad mercury oxide batteries, glass, plastic and metal containers, recyclable paper and single polymer plastics, corrugated and paperboard.

Of these materials, adoption of a demolition waste ban in Missouri alone would result in an estimated 41 percent (1996 figures) diversion in total amount of waste landfilled. Of the 15 states having disposal bans on materials not banned in Missouri, only one, Florida, has a demolition waste ban. Interesting enough, Florida had a 30 percent reduction goal to be achieved by 1995 and had achieved a 40 percent reduction by 1997.

The same issue of BioCycle (May 1998) indicates that all 50 states have set some kind of waste reduction goal. It is noteworthy to mention that methodologies for determining reduction/recycling rates vary from state to state. Of the 14 states with a 25 percent reduction goal, only six had met or exceeded that rate by their deadlines. Of the eight states with 40 percent goals, none had achieved that by their respective deadlines. Furthermore, only Missouri (30 percent, 1997) and Texas (not reporting) had deadlines prior to the year 2000. To put Missouri’s achievement in greater perspective, of the nine states that adopted or announced ambitious 50 percent goals by 2000, to date only three, California, New York and Iowa, have equaled or exceeded Missouri’s 30 percent rate.


There are several courses of action that should be considered when evaluating the 40 percent waste diversion goal. Efforts are already under way to encourage measures that would decrease the amount of waste being disposed of by Missouri. Grant funds targeted certain methods and specific waste streams during the fiscal year 1998 grant cycle and will continue to do so in the fiscal year 99 grant cycle. Methodologies include the concepts of unit-based pricing and cooperative marketing. Unit-based pricing, also referred to "pay-as-you-throw," charges a unit price on waste disposal. This concept coupled with convenient recycling opportunities have been shown to dramatically increase the amount of waste diverted from landfills. As mentioned above, convenience of recycling opportunities is imperative to encourage increased participation. Rural recycling programs are hampered by small volumes of recovered materials being collected along with limited funds and storage space. Cooperative marketing schemes, where several communities pool their resources, can create a stronger, more regional market. Missouri’s population and economic base has continued to grow. Along with this growth comes increased generation of solid waste. To stem this increase in waste generation, aggressive outreach will be necessary. Targeting the commercial and industrial waste generators should be the primary focus for waste reduction efforts to make significant additional progress toward the 40 percent waste reduction goal.

As we approach the new millennium, it is also imperative that the focus of sustainable waste reduction and recycling initiatives shift from the supply-side to the demand-side. Nationwide recyclable commodity markets are already feeling the negative effects of supply-side economics. With a newly developed infrastructure already in place in Missouri, it should be our goal to gradually shift our resources to the development of sustainable end-markets for these commodities. Until this is done, recyclable commodity prices will fluctuate wildly, driving collection efforts away from marginal materials and contributing to an unstable and economically unattractive supply infrastructure.

In two words, this means buy recycled. Until this becomes an everyday occurrence in every facet of our lives, recycling will never develop into an economically viable activity. Missouri can make a huge difference in this extent, by encouraging the procurement of materials with recycled content in every area of government. This cannot be simply limited to a few products such as office paper or printer cartridges. It needs to be the creative and pervasive use of recovered materials in all appropriate applications.

The most recent statewide grant cycle also targeted applications that focused on the recycling of construction and demolition waste. This targeting was based on the Missouri Waste Composition Study, conducted by Midwest Assistance Program Inc. in 1996 and 1997. The study estimated that construction and demolition waste comprised as much as 13 percent of the Missouri waste stream.

Modification of the present computational method for waste diversion should also be considered. The methodology must some how incorporate the cyclic waste generation rate that occurs in years of economic prosperity. Additionally, more accuracy with regard to imports and exports could be achieved through detailed reporting. This would need to be added as a requirement for landfill and transfer station operators as well as haulers.

Managing solid waste and achieving waste reduction goals are all dependent upon changing human behaviors. Just as quick success can be gained in personal weight reduction, so it is with solid waste reduction. Losing the first 15 pounds may be relatively easy, it is the next five pounds that are hardest to shed and keep off. Once a measure of success is achieved, there tends to be a relaxing of strict regimens and falling back into old habits.

Through the initiatives of SB 530 and SB 60/112, the more readily attainable elements of the solid waste stream have been diverted. The remaining amount of recoverable materials and necessary behavioral changes will be more difficult to accomplish. Missouri and the nation have a challenge ahead.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Division of Environmental Quality
Solid Waste Management Program
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65101-0176
800-361-4827 or 573-751-5401
November 1998