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Contact Pacific Southwest Waste Program

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Solid Waste

Basic Facts About Solid Waste

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) defines the term solid waste as:

Frequently Asked Questions:

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?

Web Sites


EPA Region 9 Solid Waste Program Contacts

Jaclyn Palermo, (palermo.jaclyn@azdeq.gov)
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (602) 771-4103

Office of Public Affairs, (ombudsman@calrecycle.ca.gov)
CalRecycle - Solid Waste
phone: (916) 341-6300

Lene Ichinotsubo, (linchinotsubo@eha.health.state.hi.us)
Hawaii Department of Health
phone: (808) 586-7497

Ed Glick, (eglick@ndep.nv.gov)
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection
phone: (775)687-9467


Top of page

Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 1999 Update

RCRA Online Brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 267K, About PDF)

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