Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Basic Facts About Solid Waste
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines the term solid waste as:
- Garbage, also known as municipal solid waste (e.g., milk cartons and coffee grounds)
- Refuse (e.g., metal scrap, wall board, and empty containers)
- Sludges from waste treatment plants, water supply treatment plants, or pollution control facilities (e.g., scrubber slags)
- Nonhazardous industrial wastes (e.g., manufacturing process wastewaters and nonwastewater sludges and solids)
- Other discarded materials, including solid, semisolid, liquid, or contained gaseous materials resulting from industrial and commercial activities, (e.g., mining waste, oil and gas waste, construction and demolition debris, medical waste, agricultural waste, household hazardous waste, and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator Waste)
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Did you know.....?
- What is municipal solid waste?
- How should we manage municipal solid waste?
- What federal regulations exist for municipal solid waste disposal facilities?
- How can I get additional information about municipal solid waste?
- State Contacts
Did you know.....?
- In 1998, Americans generated 220.2 million tons of municipal solid
waste of which: 22.2 percent (49 million tons) was recovered for recycling;
6 percent (13.1 million tons) was recovered for composting; and 71.8
percent (158.1 million tons) landfilled or combusted.
- In the United States, the per capita generation of municipal solid waste (garbage) in 1998 was 4.46 pounds per person per day, compared to 4.43 pounds per person per day in 1995. This number is higher than European countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom which generate around two to three pounds per person per day.
What is municipal solid waste?
Municipal solid waste, commonly known as garbage, is a subset of solid waste and is defined as durable goods (e.g., appliances, tires, and batteries), nondurable goods, containers and packaging, food wastes, yard trimmings, and miscellaneous organic wastes from residential, commercial, and industrial nonprocess sources.
How should we manage municipal solid waste?
EPA recommends using an integrated, hierarchical approach to solid waste management. This approach promotes source reduction first, followed by reuse, recycling, and then landfilling or combustion.
The hierarchy favors source reduction to reduce both the volume and toxicity of waste and to increase the useful life of manufactured products.
What federal regulations exist for municipal solid waste disposal facilities?
How can I get additional information about solid waste?
- U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste
- Solid Waste Association of North America
- Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO)