Essay Sample on Management of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States

4 pages
1025 words
Boston College
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Specific domestic environmental issue that you have chosen

This project seeks to analyze the management of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States. MSW includes everyday trash and garbage discarded from households, commercial, and institutional agencies such as food leftovers, leaves, paper, packaging, plastic bags and containers, old furniture, automobile, electronic, and electrical debris, used diapers, among others (EPA, 2016a). People have always produced waste materials throughout history. However, rapid industrial and technological development coupled with the accelerated growth of human population have rendered waste collection and management more complex and challenging.

Primary stakeholders involved and their interests

The major stakeholders in MSW management include the public, the government (federal and state), businesses and other institutions like non-governmental organizations, schools and universities, among others. The interest of the governments is to protect their citizens and the environment from potentially harmful impacts of these waste. The interest of citizens, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations is to have a clean and safe environment free from the harmful effects of MSW. Nonetheless, it is imperative to observe that all these parties have some responsibility to ensure effective management of their waste. Besides having a safe and clean environment, the interest of businesses is to make profit as they may be hired or authorized to undertake waste management.

Actions taken by various stakeholders

These stakeholders have taken different actions to promote waste management. Government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels have the mandate of enacting and enforcing regulations governing waste management. Nongovernmental organizations have on their own or in partnership with government agencies provided education and awareness to the public about the harmful effects of waste and proper waste management practices (Louis, 2004). With an understanding of the effect of waste and the need for a clean and safer environment, individuals and households have made taken more responsibility regarding the management of their waste, such as disposing their waste in designated areas (EPA, 2016b). Besides that, government agencies and private businesses provide waste management services like waste collection, disposal, dumping, and recycling.

Policy development at federal, state, and local levels

This section will analyze policies that have been developed at the local, state, and federal levels. The US government has put in place many policies at different levels (federal, state, and local) to ensure efficient and safe handling and dumping of a variety of waste. The first policy that will be explored is the Deposit-refund or container deposit policy which can be viewed as a tax imposed on waste producers in the form of beverage packaging or a subsidy for those entities that recycle those packages properly. The second policy is the Pay as you throw a framework used to price MSW per unit of waste. According to this model, the more waste a household or institution produces, the more costly it will be charged for disposing the waste. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues permits at the state and local levels to ensure proper and safe disposal, collection, treatment, and storage of hazardous wastes. Other important policies that will be analyzed will cover performance and technology standards and labeling.

Current status of the issue

EPA is committed to gathering and reporting data on the amount of waste generated and disposed in the US through led Advancing Sustainable Materials Management report. This report intends to utilize this data to determine the current status of MSW generation and disposal in the US. In 2013, the amount of MSW generated in the US amounted to 254 million tons with 87 million tons of the waste managed through recycling and composting that year (EPA, 2016a). Compared to 2014, the country generated 258 million tons of which 89 million tons were recycled and composted (EPA, 2016b). The percentage recycling rate for 2013 and 2014 stood at 34.3 and 34.6 percent. These statistics clearly shows that MSW generation and disposal is still a serious issue in the country.

Proposed resolution to the issue

Based on the amount of MSW generated and disposed in the years2013 and 2014, coupled with the percentage recycling rates reported during this period, this report suggest recycling and waste prevention as the most sound solutions for addressing the problem. This resolution is better compared to other alternatives such as composting and landfilling because of the public concerns and the high costs associated with these methods (Weitz et al., 2002; EPA, 2016b). Therefore, recycling and waste prevention are not only intended to ensure effective and efficient MSW management, but also reduce the harmful effects and high costs related to the other methods of disposal.

Case, statute, or regulation supporting the position

The position of this report is specifically supported by the EPA which is primarily mandated with the regulation of solid and hazardous waste in the US. EPA enforces regulation covering household, industrial, manufacturing and commercial solid and hazardous wastes at all levels. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 provides the legal framework upon which EPA enforces regulations on the disposal of these waste. RCRA encourages state and local governments to create comprehensive plans to manage MSW (). The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Clean Air Act also support the position of this report.

Search sites and list of keywords

The start sites for general searching is the EPA website, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and PubMed databases, as well as Google Scholar. The following keywords will be used for searching information relevant to the generation and management of MSW:

Municipal solid waste (MSW)

Waste management

Waste generation and disposal

Waste prevention and recycling

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)



Environmental Protection Agency (2016a). Municipal Solid Waste. Accessed from

Environmental Protection Agency (2016b). Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet: Assessing Trends in Material Generation, Recycling, Composting, Combustion with Energy Recovery and Landfilling in the United States.

Weitz, K. A., Thorneloe, S. A., Nishtala, S. R., Yarkosky, S., & Zannes, M. (2002). The impact of municipal solid waste management on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 52(9), 1000-1011.

Louis, G. E. (2004). A historical context of municipal solid waste management in the United States. Waste management & research, 22(4), 306-322.


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