Municipal Solid Waste Disposal

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Municipal solid waste (also called trash or garbage) is defined at the national level as wastes consisting of everyday items such as:

  • product packaging
  • grass clippings
  • furniture
  • clothing
  • bottles and cans
  • food scraps
  • newspapers
  • appliances
  • consumer electronics
  • batteries.

These wastes come from homes; institutions such as schools and hospitals; and commercial sources such as restaurants and small businesses.

The EPA’s definition of municipal solid waste (MSW) does not include municipal wastewater treatment sludges, industrial process wastes, automobile bodies, combustion ash, or construction and demolition debris. Once generated, MSW must be collected and managed. Common management methods include recovery for recycling or composting, combustion (with the resulting energy used to generate electricity or steam in some cases), and landfill disposal. Many wastes that are disposed of in landfills represent a loss of materials that could be reused, recycled, or converted to energy to displace the use of virgin materials.

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