California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Solid Waste Characterization Database

Business Waste Characterization Data Development

Business SIC Groupings

The CIWMB solid waste characterization database contains waste stream data for different types of businesses. Since there are many kinds of businesses, we used federal SIC codes to group similar businesses together. We used the 83 major groups (2-digit codes) and grouped them into 39 business groupings, putting businesses with similar waste streams together. Some groups are "catch all" groups of less similar businesses, but ones that are also less numerous and/or less likely to be targeted for waste diversion programs. How data was collected and combined in the database is described below. Please also be aware of the data limitations.

Types of Data

The database combines three types of information, which are described below. All the information is based on the 39 business SIC groupings.  Most of the data was collected as part of the 1999 Statewide Waste Characterization Study, and data from other studies was used to supplement this.

1) Business Data. Information on businesses and employees in each jurisdiction is used to estimate disposal amounts for business groupings.  Due to licensing restrictions, only disposal amounts are reported.

2) Business Waste Compositions. The types and amounts of materials typically disposed by a business grouping. For example, food waste makes up about 56 percent of the typical waste stream of restaurants.

3) Waste Disposal Rates for Business Types. How much waste is typically disposed by a business grouping, based on tons disposed per employee per year. For example, restaurants typically dispose about 3.1 tons per employee per year.

How Data Was Collected

1) Business Data. The data was purchased from a commercial source (Claritas, Inc., which uses data from InfoUSA), and includes summary data for each city and unincorporated county area. The data consists of number of businesses and number of employees by business group. The current version of the database contains 1999 data.

2) Business Waste Compositions. Data on the waste streams of over 1200 individual businesses throughout the state was collected by examining waste from the dumpsters of each business. Samples of waste were physically sorted into 57 material types, such as food waste, newspaper, clear glass, ferrous metals, etc. The amount of each material type in each sample was weighed, and converted to a percentage of the sample. Standard waste characterization field protocols were used. Data from all the businesses in a business SIC grouping were combined to get the average disposal composition for that grouping. Since only waste disposed was examined, if the businesses recycled materials, those materials would not be included in the waste disposal composition data.

Additionally, it was necessary to combine some business groups. This so-called "lumped group" consists of 14 business groups whose combined contribution to the statewide overall waste stream is less than 5 percent.  Data for each of these groups individually is included in the database, but it is based on very limited sampling and may not provide an accurate representation of actual disposal compositions. A list of these groups can be found on the data limitations page.  (See 1999 Statewide Waste Characterization Study for a complete explanation of the methodology.)

3) Waste Disposal Rates for Business Types. Data on how much waste (volume of waste in cubic yards) a business disposes annually, as well as the density (pounds per cubic yard) of that waste, was collected for each business sampled. Additionally, the SIC code and number of employees was determined. From this information, the average tons disposed per employee per year (disposal rate) for each business grouping was determined. (See 1999 Statewide Waste Characterization Study for a complete explanation of the methodology). For business groups that were lumped together in the statewide study, business disposal rates from past studies were used.

How Data Is Combined

These explanations correspond to the information contained in the database.

1) Estimated Business Waste Amounts for a Jurisdiction (see the "Overall by business group" selection in the database). The business data provides the number of businesses and employees in each business grouping in each jurisdiction. The number of employees in a business grouping is multiplied by the waste disposal rate for that grouping to estimate the tons disposed by that business grouping in that city. For example, say there are 29,855 employees in the Services--Other Misc. business grouping. The disposal rate for Services--Other Misc. is 0.9 tons/employee/year.

29,855 employees X 0.9 tons/employee/year = 26,870 tons/year for Services--Other Misc.

2) Estimated Waste Compositions (see the "Details by business group" selection in the database). The typical waste composition for a business grouping can be combined with the estimated waste amount specific for that business grouping in the selected jurisdiction. This results in an estimate of the tons of each material type disposed by that business grouping in that jurisdiction.

3) Estimated Material Types from Businesses (see the "Details for material type" selection in the database). The tonnage of each material type in each business grouping can be estimated from the database (see preceding paragraph). Once these amounts are calculated, they can easily be ranked to show which business groupings dispose the most of any selected material type.

4) Overall Business Waste Stream (see the "Overall by material type" selection in the database).  The tonnage amounts of a specific material type from each business grouping can be added together. This will estimate the tons of that material disposed by all the business groupings. This can be done for all material types to estimate the overall business waste stream.

Data Use and Interpretation

Please be aware that the data described above has limitations in its accuracy. The assumptions underlying the database structure may not always work. This database is designed to assist local users, who may not have the resources to collect their own local data, in the design and development of solid waste programs. Therefore, it should be used as a planning tool, not a measurement tool. Jurisdictions should carefully consider if use of this data is appropriate for their particular task. The more you understand the development and limitations of the data, the better you will be able to use it. For more detailed information, contact Nancy Carr at (916) 341-6216 or at the e-mail address listed below.


The database combines data from many sources. Information, time, and expertise from waste haulers, cities and counties, consultants, and others were generously donated to this project, and coordinated by Dr. Eugene Tseng of UCLA Extension, the principal developer of the database. Many thanks to all those who cooperated to make this information available to many users.

Last updated: October 17, 2002
Solid Waste Characterization,