Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Louisiana Waste Management

Waste management has changed drastically in the last two decades. In 1980 Louisiana had more than 800 landfills; today it has 24. Act 189 of 1989 mandated a 25% reduction in municipal waste being land filled, and advocated recycling and composting of municipal and other wastes. Before that, there was little organized recycling of municipal waste, and up to 25% of the material going to landfills was yard and tree trimmings. Almost all of the sewage sludge went to the landfill without any thought of alternate disposal. Many rural residents burned garbage in drums behind their homes. Industrial waste was often stored in open pits, and residues from harvesting and processing agricultural and forestry products were piled on the ground or burned. The total amount of non-residential waste going to landfills in 1990 was more than 11 million tons.

landfill.gifNew federal and state regulations on landfill design, construction and operation caused almost all of Louisiana’s landfills to close during the 1980s. The new landfills cost more to construct, operate and monitor, but they offer much more protection to the environment. The increase in tipping fees to place material in the landfill and the increased cost of transporting municipal solid waste (MSW) to the landfill have caused many municipalities to look at ways to reduce these costs. Act 189 of 1989 mandated reductions in the amount of waste that a municipality can send to the landfill. This act, coupled with the cost increases, has promoted the recycling of paper, glass, plastic and metal. Many municipalities also separate yard trimmings and recycle them as compost or mulch. New state regulations promote the beneficial use of properly treated biosolids (sewage sludge) to replace fertilizer and improve soil organic matter on forest and farm land. Recycling of aluminum, glass, plastic and paper has increased drastically. Several cities now operate yard waste composting or mulching programs. Between 1990 and 2000 recycling increased from nearly zero statewide to 15%, or 570,000 tons. The amount of MSW going to landfills in 1990 was 5,797,320 tons compared to 3,800,000 tons in 2000. Additional information on waste disposal and recycling can be found on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) web page.

Industrial waste is now disposed of in environmental protective landfills and the reusable streams used in a variety of processes. Waste reduction programs are in effect in many manufacturing facilities to minimize the total amount of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste being generated. The Louisiana Environmental Leadership Pollution Prevention Program documents these efforts. Clean lime residues are used in the state’s agricultural liming program after being tested and approved by the Agricultural Chemistry Laboratory. Other residues containing plant nutrients and other ingredients beneficial to soil and plant growth are used in Beneficial Use programs.

Agricultural and Forestry Wastes

The primary processing of harvested crops and timber produces one of the largest waste streams in Louisiana. Estimates of these streams vary but, in most years, the total may exceed 10 million tons of residual bagasse (stalk residue from sugar cane),waste.gif filter press cake, cotton gin trash, rice hulls, bark, wood chips, clarifier fiber solids at paper mills and ash. Both bagasse and wood waste and bark are burned to generate power and steam at sugar and paper mills. Rice hulls are burned in some locations to generate electricity for local consumption and sale.

Since 1993, agricultural and woody wastes can be beneficially reused under best management practices (BMPs) handled by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) under exemptions granted in the LDEQ Solid Waste Regulations. Most slag.gifprocessors have registered in the program, and some or all of their residues are reused as soil amendments for organic matter, nutrients or as a lime source. This often has the benefit of returning organic matter and organic nutrients to the land from which the crops were harvested. This can reduce costs for both producer and processor while rebuilding the soil and reducing the dependence on manufactured fertilizers.

The residues from harvesting crops and timber that remain at the site where the crops were grown have been exempt from LDEQ and LDAF regulations. However, the process of burning these residues in the field has been the source of a great deal of controversy. The prescribed burning of timber lands to reduce litter buildup and competition has also been an item of concern. As a result, all such burns must be conducted by certified trained burn operators. The Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service (LCES) has conducted burn schools for agricultural producers, and the Louisiana Forestry Association and LDAF conduct schools for forest producers. The testing and certification of burn operators are handled by LDAF. Information on burn conditions can be obtained daily at

Animal Waste Management

Animal wastes are not as serious or widespread an issue in Louisiana as in some states. Louisiana has no cattle feed lots and no major factory swine producers. In 2001, Louisiana produced 70,000 market hogs compared to1.5 million in1950. All of these producers use lagoon systems to treat waste and waste water. Louisiana has only 369 dairies, and almost all of them have “no discharge” lagoon systems to collect the manures and runoff from the feeding and loafing areas. Routinely these lagoons are pumped and the waste and water mixture applied to pastures or crop fields using nutrient management plans developed in cooperation between LCES, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and LDAF to reduce or eliminate the potential of runoff polluting nearby streams.

The bulk of Louisiana’s animal waste is chicken litter removed from broiler production houses. Louisiana’s 2,000 broiler production houses produce a mixture of chicken seeder.gifmanure and rice hull or sawdust litter. Waste products from poultry-producing operations such as poultry litter are an excellent fertilizer source that also adds organic matter to the soil. Poultry production operations have historically been located close to processing facilities, therefore they are found in concentrated areas around the state. Most of the poultry litter has been used as fertilizer only in these areas. The concentrated use of poultry litter in the poultry regions has caused environmental concerns because of the accumulation of phosphorous in the soil. Poultry producers are implementing environmental safe production practices to ensure environmental stability in their regions.

The LSU AgCenter, in cooperation with the NRCS, LDAF and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, has conducted workshops to help producers understand and learn how to manage nutrients from poultry litter by properly collecting and interpreting soil and poultry litter sample analysis, calibrating poultry litter applicators and budgeting nutrients for optimum crop production that minimize the risk of negative impacts on regional water bodies.

Comprehensive nutrient management plans are also being developed and implemented as tools for environmental safe poultry waste management. Site-specific plans that take into account many different aspects of each individual farm are helping poultry producers maintain a viable fertilizer source while not degrading surface waters in area streams, rivers and lakes.

Resources and Programs

The LSU Agricultural Center, a campus of Louisiana State University and A & M College, conducts research, education and extension programs to assist federal and state agencies, municipalities, business, industry, agricultural and forest producers and processors and private citizens in environmentally sound waste management. Research and education programs on waste management and water quality protection are also conducted in the Engineering and Environmental Science departments at other LSU campuses.

Extension Outreach

The LSU Agricultural Center’s Cooperative Extension Service develops and delivers educational programs to all audiences in every parish. These programs provide research-based information to residents. Some Extension educational programs addressing waste management are:

The W.A. Callegari Environmental Center conducts schools to train compost facility operators for certification and others interested in large-scale composting.

The “Rot Mobile” is a self-contained trailer fully equipped to conduct education and training in backyard composting to all audiences. This vehicle is available through county agents’ offices for schools, community groups, fairs and other events. A large assortment of literature on composting is available through parish Cooperative Extension offices or on the Web at

Agricultural and Forestry Residue Management BMP Guides
Guidelines and requirements for enrolling in the Agricultural/Forestry Waste BMP programs available for cotton, sugarcane, rice, woody wastes and composting for agricultural and forestry processors are available through the W.A. Callegari Environmental Center. A generic BMP guide is also available for developing BMP programs for other agricultural/forestry residues. Contact your local Extension office or on the Web at

Beneficial Use of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids)
Information or assistance in developing a Beneficial Use program for local communities can be obtained through your Extension office in Louisiana or from the waste contacts listed at this site.

Scientific Research

Research on waste management is conducted by the LSU Agricultural Center’s Experiment Station. Waste management research is also conducted by the departments of Animal Science, Agronomy and Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Some examples of major research efforts concerning waste management in Louisiana include:

Tillage, Silviculture and Waste Management evaluates dairy management practices as they affect the quality of surface runoff from pastures and develops systems to differentiate between fecal and non-fecal origins of coliform in runoff. The project also investigates the effects of poultry litter used to fertilize pine trees and forage crops, measures the effects of poultry litter on pine tree growth, and determines the related effects on water quality.

Utilization of Organic Waste for Cotton and Pine Production is designed to determine if poultry litter and municipal solid waste can be used to produce cotton and pine trees without adversely affecting water quality.

Composting Of Fish And Crawfish Processing Residuals. Lawson, T.B., C.M. Drapcho and G.A. Breitenbeck. Louisiana State University.

Management of Animal Waste in Support of Sustainable Agriculture and Quality Water Resources. Bunting, L.D. and L.C. Kappel. Louisiana State University. The goal of this research project is to develop and evaluate processes for animal waste management that will support sustained soil productivity and/or result in higher value products.

Effect of Compost Sources, Rates and a Biological Solution on Sugarcane Yields examines which of several available compost sources perform best when sugarcane is grown.

Animal Manure and Waste Utilization, Treatment and Nuisance Avoidance for a Sustainable Agriculture assesses pollutant transport from grazed pastures and development of treatment options for animal manures in order to protect Louisiana's water resources. The water quality impacts of grazing dairy cattle on pasture will be studied in regard to fecal coliform content in runoff water.

The objective of New Technologies for the Utilization of Textile Materials is to develop value added products from renewable and recyclable resources.

Water Quality Issues in Poultry Production and Processing seeks to develop methods for proper management and recycling of poultry production and processing waste to improve water quality.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Education on waste and waste water treatment and management is provided in the departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Agronomy, and Civil Engineering and Environmental Science.

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