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12 June 2024

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4 minutes

Top 3 waste streams by sector

The world of waste management is very diverse. Every business sector has its own unique waste challenges. From construction to the food industry, healthcare to mobility and everything in between, each sector produces its own mix of waste streams. With over 30 years of experience in waste and resource management, Milgro knows exactly what's going on. Therefore, in this article, we present the top 3 waste streams for various sectors. 


The logistics sector is broad. Therefore, we encounter a diverse range of waste streams in this sector. These waste streams can vary greatly by activity, depending on what a company in the logistics sector is engaged in. For example, waste streams in e-commerce or express logistics are fairly homogeneous, as packaging material is the main waste product there. 

Top 3 waste streams logistics

  1. Cardboard, think especially boxes
  2. Plastic foil
  3. Plastic strips 



The food industry has a diversity of waste streams, which can vary greatly from producer to producer. For example, you will not find animal by-products at a vegan producer, just as a condiment producer will not have beverage cartons as a waste stream. Because of safety concerns, most food companies exclude glass from their production process. Only a few companies use glass, for example for pasta sauce, because it preserves flavor and quality without chemical interaction. Many food producers have sludge as a waste stream. This water-saturated mixture contains hazardous substances and is collected in lidded drums. Consider sludge from grease separators: plants that separate fats and oils from wastewater to prevent sewer blockages.  

Top 3 food industry waste streams

  1. Organic waste. For example, we see here a lot of fruit and vegetable residues, powders, permeates and consumer products, composite products (category 3), pulp, sugar water, brewer's grains, wheat yeast concentrate and other specific streams, such as coffee residues and nut oils
  2. Sludge wastewater
  3. Packaging, for example plastic packaging and beverage cartons



The mobility sector is very broad. It includes automotive customers, such as car dealerships and bodyshops. But it also includes transportation companies, such as trucks, trains and buses. It also includes retail businesses, such as bicycle stores. We are slowly seeing less waste oil disposal in this sector due to the shift to electric transportation. You may not expect it, but cardboard and plastics are a major waste stream within mobility. This is due to the buying and selling of parts. 

Top 3 waste streams mobility

  1. Oils, like used (motor) oil
  2. Hazardous waste, such as aerosols, batteries and accumulators
  3. Metal, such as scrap metal



For contractors, demolition companies and construction suppliers, the recycling of demolished building materials plays an important role. Reusable materials are separated, then construction and demolition waste remains. The construction industry also has specific waste streams that are subject to strict safety requirements, such as asbestos removal. 

Top 3 construction and demolition waste streams

  1. Rubble
  2. Wood: this is carefully separated into A, B and C wood
  3. Metal and scrap iron: ferrous (metals with iron) and non-ferrous (metals without iron) 



The chemicals sector produces a wide range of products and includes manufacturers that use chemical processes, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and fertilizer manufacturers. 

Top 3 waste streams from chemistry

  1. Liquids, such as rinse water and wastewater
  2. Alkalis and bases such as ammonia and chlorine
  3. Oil: lubricating greases and oil



The energy sector includes not only the production of electricity, but also the maintenance of the energy grid and the production of hardware for the energy sector, such as turbines and solar panels. It also includes the extraction of raw materials needed for energy production, such as coal, natural gas and uranium.

Top 3 waste streams energy

  1. Metals: ferrous and non-ferrous
  2. Hard plastics
  3. Hazardous waste: PCB-containing and non-PCB-containing oil. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of chemical compounds that were used in various industrial applications but are now known to be hazardous substances. This is due to their persistence in the environment and adverse health effects.


The manufacturing industry includes the processing of materials into new products. This can be done in a variety of sectors: from mechanical engineering to metal production, from transportation equipment to electronics, and from plastics processing to textiles. In addition, this sector can be defined even more broadly. For example, it can include mineral extraction, industry and the production and distribution of energy and water. The main waste streams vary depending on the specific type of business. For example, metalworking results in scrap metal waste, while electronics manufacturing results in electronic waste. So despite the fact that this sector is very fragmented, we can still name a top 3 waste streams. 

Top 3 waste streams manufacturing industry

  1. Paper from packaging waste
  2. Metal: ferrous and non-ferrous metals and scrap iron
  3. Chemical waste: solvents, such as parts cleaners, thinner and chlorine



Whether it's small pleasure boats, luxury superyachts or large container ships, the maritime industry is all about designing, building and maintaining yachts and boats. Then you can think about all aspects of the production process. From designing hulls to installing interiors. From assembling engines to carrying out finishing work. In addition, maritime services also fall within this sector. Think of towing services, port management or logistics support. Suppliers of materials such as navigation equipment and safety equipment also belong here. With a diversity of companies, this sector plays a role in transportation, trade and maritime development. Scrap materials are especially common in yacht building. This is residual material created during the production process because it is not used or does not meet quality standards.

Top 3 waste streams maritime

  1. Ferrous metals: waste released during production, these metals contain iron
  2. Wood: A wood pallets, mostly through suppliers
  3. Plastic from packaging or foil



In health care, you will encounter a wide variety of services. From hospitalizations and family doctor care to dental treatments and paramedical support. Also consider a visit to a medical laboratory for blood tests. A visit to pharmacy for medication. Or home care that comes to your home. The pharmaceutical industry develops medications that are used in all these facets of care. Susceptibility to infection and disease transmission require a high degree of hygiene. Because of the presence of hazardous and infectious substances, hospital waste requires careful handling and disposal. 

Top 3 waste streams healthcare

  1. Plastic from healthcare equipment packaging material (such as bandages)
  2. Hospital waste: surgical waste; bandages; body fluids; disposable instruments
  3. Chemical waste: solvents, such as acetone


Getting started on your top 3 (or all other) waste streams?

As you can read, there is a great diversity of waste streams. Each sector needs its own expertise. Do you know your company's top three waste streams? Do you know how many pounds each stream consists of and what they cost or benefit you? Are you aware of how well you separate waste streams and how much CO2 they emit? 

Request a Waste Scan from Milgro and gain insight into your company's waste streams. Because Milgro has a lot of benchmark data, you will immediately discover how your company performs compared to others in the sector. But more importantly, with the waste scan you will discover where the euro and eco opportunities and savings lie in the field of waste management in your organization. Feel free to discuss the possibilities for your organization with one of our experts.