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Flow Control and Municipal Solid Waste

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Flow controls are legal provisions that allow state and local governments to designate the places where municipal solid waste (MSW) is taken for processing, treatment, or disposal. Because of flow controls, designated facilities may hold monopolies on local MSW and/or recoverable materials. Consequently, flow control has become a heavily debated issue among state and local governments, the waste management and recycling industries, and environmental groups.

In 1992, Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review flow control as it pertains to municipal solid waste management. Specifically, Congress directed EPA to:

EPA's 1995 Report to Congress on Flow Control and Municipal Solid Waste indicates that flow controls are an administratively efficient tool for local governments to plan and fund solid waste management systems. However, protection of human health and the environment is directly related to the implementation and enforcement of federal, state, and local environmental regulations rather than to the existence of flow control measures. Data also indicate that flow control is not essential for developing MSW management capacity, or for achieving recycling goals.

The Agency examined flow control nation-wide, finding that 35 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands authorize flow control directly. Four additional states authorize flow control through mechanisms such as solid waste management plans and home rule authority. Eleven states have no flow control authority. It is important to recognize that the Report presents a national perspective on flow control, and that the needs and objectives of state and local jurisdictions may differ significantly from a national viewpoint. Factors such as local waste generation rates, financial and market conditions, demographics, and the local economy affect the planning and implementation of local solid waste management systems.

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Fact Sheet (Text Version)

Executive Summary (PDF) (13 pp, 42K) | Text Version

Full Report:

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