White Paper: Volume to Weight Conversion Ratios for Commercial Office Waste in New York City

Calculating Commercial Waste:  Finally, A More Reliable Volume to Weight Conversion Ratio

Amy at ICWS Int Conference Solid Waste Jan 2013
Amy Marpman presenting the findings at the ICWS (International Conference on Solid Waste) in Philadelphia.

How much waste are you really generating? This is a question commercial businesses across the country have difficulty answering accurately.

To address this problem, Great Forest conducted a study that was presented earlier this month at the International Conference on Solid Waste in Philadelphia. [see a  SLIDESHOW summary of the study.]

The problem stems from this – while waste is typically reported in weight (tons), waste is typically collected and measured by volume (cubic yards).

Because there is currently no standard conversion ratio for commercial trash, this divergence makes it challenging to accurately calculate the amount of waste generated, making it difficult to compare company reports, hauler invoices, third party assessments, and more.

The Great Forest study – involving over 2,684 bags of waste at 18 buildings – is the largest effort of its kind. It produced a volume to weight conversion ratio for commercial waste that could be the most accurate and reliable to date.  (Current standards available for residential waste do not reflect the material makeup of commercial waste and therefore cannot be used accurately to calculate commercial waste.)

Download the six-page paper (or see abstract below) to get results of the study.

Speak with your Great Forest consultant about using these more accurate conversion ratios for your waste metrics.

White Paper: Volume to Weight Conversion Ratios for Commercial Office Waste in New York City 

January 2013

Authors: Amy Marpman, Matthew Shurtleff, Ross Guberman, Richard Fuller


This paper establishes volume to weight conversions for waste streams specific to large
commercial office buildings. This sector-specific study can be used by commercial properties:
1) to better measure and calculate waste generation, and
2) as a model to establish more accurate conversion standards.

Waste is typically reported in weight (tons). However waste is typically collected and
measured by volume (cubic yards). When actual weights are not available, it is necessary to convert data from cubic yards to tons. Depending on the specific material stream composition,
commonly used conversion rates may not be accurate, thus creating unreliable waste data.

This paper focuses on defining material streams specific to large commercial properties
(500,000 sq. ft – 1m sq. ft) in the New York metropolitan area: mixed office waste, mixed
paper, and comingled Glass/Metal/Plastic); and establishing volume to weight conversion  ratios for these material streams. Great Forest staff weighed 2,684 bags of waste across 18 buildings and calculated the average bags per cubic yard. With an open explanation of the waste audit methodology involved, the conversion ratios arrived at are expected to contribute to increased accuracy and transparency in waste reporting in the United States.

On average, we found volume to weight conversions as follows:

Dry office waste:  73 pounds per cubic yard
Mixed sorted paper:  172 pounds per cubic yard
Commingled glass/metal/plastic containers:  113 pounds per cubic yard

Read the full report here

See Slideshare Slideshow – Calculating Commercial Waste


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