Written by John Nicholson, M.S., P.Eng., Editor

The United States Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (“ASTSWMO”) recently issued a Difficult-to-Manage Materials Survey Report. The purpose of the survey is to pinpoint products and materials that are of concern or causing issues in waste and recycling programs and to identify associated trends among States and Territories (States).

The report is a compilation of survey responses from the 39 State governments that responded to the survey. For the purposes of the survey, “difficult-to-manage” was defined as an item that has reached the end of its useful life that presents difficulties to the public, State or local government, or the waste and recycling industry because of a lack of viable end markets, inherent difficulties in handling the material, a lack of collection or recovery infrastructure, or any combination thereof.

The report presents qualitative information gathered through responses. The Task Force of the ASTSWMO is using the survey results to inform where to focus its efforts and formulate an approach for addressing difficult-to-manage materials in the waste stream.

Report Findings

The survey asked respondents to rank their top five difficult-to-manage materials in their State from among a list of 21 items across the country. The top five items were:

  1. Batteries, Non-Electric Vehicle (EV) Lithium Ion
  2. Tires
  3. PFAS-containing products (including Aqueous Film Forming Foam)
  4. Household Hazardous Waste
  5. Plastics (respondents were asked to specify)

Respondents were asked if they were using particular mechanisms to address their top 5 materials. Respondents were allowed to select as many mechanisms as applicable from the list below.

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
  • Funding, State-level
  • Funding, Private
  • Market Development
  • Private/Public Partnership
  • Regulations
  • Statute
  • None of the Above
  • Other

The findings from the survey found that “Guidance documents” received the highest number of responses, at 25. “Funding, State-level” and “Regulations” each received 20 responses. Seventeen (17) respondents selected “Statute”. See below for the results of the results from the survey question on mechanisms to address recycling.

With respect to the top 3 challenges/problems their State are facing regarding difficult-to-manage materials, they were as follows:

  • End Markets
  • Infrastructure
  • Funding

Respondents were asked to indicate some of the existing opportunities in their Region/State for managing difficult-to-manage materials. “Public/Private sector partnerships and other collaborations” was cited most often, with 18 responses, and was closely followed by Funding, which was noted by 17 respondents.

About the ASTSWMO

ASTSWMO is a non-profit environmental trade association representing the waste management and remediation programs within the 50 U.S. States, five Territories and the District of Columbia (States). ASTSWMO’s mission is “to enhance and promote effective State and Territorial programs and to affect relevant national policies for waste and materials management, environmentally sustainable practices, and environmental restoration.”

The mission of the SMM Task Force is to provide leadership and promote actions that reduce waste, conserve resources, prevent pollution, and foster sustainability through identifying recycling opportunities and partnerships and through the development and implementation of educational programs about recycling.