The Uniform Disposal Characterization Method


Local governments, solid waste managers, and others can use the “uniform disposal characterization method” when collecting data on the types and amounts of materials in their disposed waste stream. The Board may require local governments to collect such data for reporting or planning purposes.

The uniform disposal characterization method collects information only on the disposed waste stream, not on materials diverted through recyclingcomposting, or source reduction. California has no requirement for collecting detailed diversion data.


    • “Characterization” means determining the amounts and types of materials within a waste stream. The California Integrated Waste Management Board developed a standard method for jurisdictions to use for waste characterization studies.

Description of the Uniform Disposal Characterization Method

    • The Board–in collaboration with UCLA’s Extension Waste Management and Recycling Certificate Program–developed the uniform disposal characterization method.  Local government representatives and other interested parties assisted.
    • The Board approved the uniform disposal characterization method during the summer of 1996.

Using the Uniform Disposal Characterization Method

    • Jurisdictions may be required to use the Board’s uniform disposal characterization method if they fall short of the disposal reduction goals or if they conduct future waste characterization studies for inclusion in a revised Source Reduction and Recycling Element.
    • As part of the uniform disposal characterization method, several data collection approaches are allowed, including landfill sampling (sampling mixed solid waste at disposal or handling facilities), generator sampling (sampling at businesses or residences), use of default database (use of Board supplied default data based on generator sampling), existing data (use of information available to the jurisdiction from previous studies or targeted research), or a combination when appropriate.
    • The solid waste characterization database is a very powerful tool for targeting businesses for waste prevention, recycling, composting, and other diversion efforts. The database combines information on businesses with information on waste composition and quantities. The database allows jurisdictions to estimate the types and amounts of waste different types of businesses produce. For example, one could look at a city’s commercial sector to identify the biggest waste generators, or identify the biggest recyclable material generators.
    • Statute requires the method be standardized and statistically representative.

Legislation and Statutes:


Chapter 1292, Statutes of 1992 (Sher, AB 2494)

Statute: Public Resources Code (PRC) Section

PRC 41770 (b), Revision of Waste Management Plans