More than 1.9 million tons of recyclable materials were disposed of in Missouri landfills each year, the study found. If recycled, the potential economic value of the materials as commodities would have been approximately $208 million dollars.
The Midwest Assistance Program Inc. conducted the study between September 2006 and June 2007 by sorting municipal solid waste at 15 solid waste disposal facilities. The waste stream was generated by homes, schools, small businesses and other commercial activities.
The study found nearly 45 percent of the municipal solid waste deposited in Missouri landfills could be recycled, including metals, paper, plastics and glass.
'It is important to focus efforts on recovery of these resources for both their environmental benefits and the economic value derived from recycling them,' said Department of Natural Resources Director Doyle Childers.
'The results of this study will assist Missouri's 20 solid waste management districts in designing and implementing programs to reduce, reuse and recycle targeted materials within the municipal solid waste sector,' said Childers.
Using recovered materials in manufacturing new products saves energy, money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
If recyclable materials in Missouri's municipal solid waste were recovered instead of disposed of, nearly 28 billion British thermal units of energy could have been saved, equivalent to the amount of energy used by 262,000 houses in a year.
This would amount to cost savings of more than $500 million, based on the average cost of propane for 2006 and 2007, the study estimates.
Today, an important aspect of recycling is its potential to help prevent global climate change, the study points out. By diverting waste from landfills, the amount of methane produced by landfill sites is reduced. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas and a major contributor to global climate change, but when captured it can be burned for heating and steam generation.
Recycling products rather than producing them from virgin materials produces less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process.
'If the more than 1.9 million tons of municipal solid waste materials were recycled and used in new products instead of using virgin materials, more than 1.1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions could have been avoided,' Childers said.