|What We Do||Solid Waste Hierarchy|
|What is Solid Waste and What is
EPA's Role in Regulating Solid Waste?
|Solid Waste and Greenhouse Gases|
Welcome to Region 7's Solid Waste Program pages. We promote waste prevention, recycling and the safe and effective management/disposal of solid waste including household and commercial garbage and nonhazardous industrial wastes. We work closely with our partners including State agencies, Indian Tribes, local governments, universities and citizen groups to solve municipal solid waste generation and management problems.
Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) addresses nonhazardous wastes and small quantities of hazardous wastes. Subtitle D recognizes that state and local governments are primarily responsible for planning, regulating, and managing these wastes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes minimum standards for disposal of these wastes and provides state/ local agencies and the general public with guidance and information.States oversee most of the solid waste disposal programs and compliance is assured through state-issued permits. State and local governments are the primary planning, permitting, regulating, implementing, and enforcement agencies for management and disposal of household and industrial or commercial nonhazardous solid wastes. EPA can only perform compliance inspections and enforcement of the Federal landfill disposal requirements after EPA has gone through a formal procedure to determine whether a State's solid waste program is inadequate.
|EPA established the Resource Conservation Challenge, a major national effort to find flexible, yet more protective ways to conserve our valuable natural resources through waste reduction and energy recovery. Through this initiative, the EPA challenges all Americans to:
This Website contains basic information about the management and disposal of solid waste including waste reduction, recycling, composting, disposal, the impact of solid waste management on green house gases and more.
The solid wastes addressed by RCRA Subtitle D include Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), industrial waste and certain hazardous wastes, such as hazardous wastes from households and from conditionally exempt small quantity generators, which are exempted from the hazardous waste regulations (Subtitle C).
| The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines the term Solid Waste as:
In 2001, United States residents, businesses, and institutions produced nearly 232 million tons of MSW, which is approximately 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day, up from 2.7 pounds per person per day in 1960.We recently published our annual report on the generation, recycling, and disposal of municipal solid waste: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States. Data show:
- A national recycling rate of 30%, up from 28% in 1999,
- 57% of yard trimmings were recovered for composting in 2000, nearly a fourfold increase since 1990.
- 45% of paper and paperboard were recovered for recycling in 2000.
- Americans generated nearly 232 million tons of MSW, a slight .3% increase from a 1999.
- 14.5 % of MSW was combusted
- 55.3% of MSW was land filled, down somewhat from 57.2% in 1999.
EPA has ranked the most environmentally sound strategies for MSW. Source reduction (including reuse) is the most preferred method, followed by recycling and composting and disposal in combustion facilities and landfills.
Several MSW management practices, such as waste prevention, recycling, and composting, prevent or divert materials from the waste stream. Currently, in the United States, 30.1% is recovered and recycled or composted, 14.5% is burned at combustion facilities, and the remaining 55.3% is disposed of in landfills.
Source Reduction, also called waste prevention can be a successful method of reducing waste generation. Waste prevention involves altering the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount and toxicity of what gets thrown away. Practices such as grass cycling (mulch mowing), backyard composting, two-sided copying of paper, and transport packaging reduction by industry have yielded substantial benefits through source reduction.
Source reduction has many environmental benefits. It prevents emissions of many greenhouse gases, reduces pollutants, saves energy, conserves resources, and reduces the need for new landfills and combustors.
Recycling including composting,diverted 69.9 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2000, up from 33 million tons in 1990. Recycling diverts items, such as paper, glass, plastic, and metals, from the waste stream. These materials are sorted, collected, and processed and then manufactured, sold, and bought as new products. Composting decomposes organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, with micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi), producing a soil-like substance.
Recycling helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions that affect global climates. In 2000, recycling resulted in an annual energy savings of at least 660 trillion BTUs, which equals the amount of energy used in 6 million households annually.
Recycling prevents the emission of many water pollutants, saves energy, supplies valuable raw materials to industry, creates jobs, stimulates the development of greener technologies, conserves resources for our children’s future, and reduces the need for new landfills and combustors.
Disposal, at the bottom of the solid waste environmental hierarchy, includes both landfills and combustion facilities. Landfills are engineered areas where waste is placed into the land. Landfills usually have liner systems and other safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination. Combustion facilities burn MSW at a high temperature, reducing waste volume (ash must still be land filled) and generating electricity.
|Everyone knows that reducing waste is good for the environment. What most people don’t know is that solid waste reduction and recycling help stop global climate change. How? By decreasing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHG) that is linked to everyday trash. Source reduction and recycling can reduce GHG emissions at the manufacturing stage, increase forest carbon storage, and avoid landfill methane emissions. Landfill methane emissions can be reduced by using gas recovery systems and by diverting organic materials from the landfill.|
Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases - A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks
This report integrates, for the first time, a wealth of information on greenhouse gas implications of various municipal solid waste management options (source reduction, recycling, composting, combustion, and land filling). The report provides GHG emission factors for some of the most common materials in municipal solid waste. The report finds, that due to energy and methane reductions and carbon storage in forests, source reduction and recycling can significantly reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Additional information on the link between solid waste and green house gases can be found in the Waste section of Global Warming Site.