Keep America Beautiful

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GARBAGE BASICS

Garbage isn't something most American's want to think about every day, but managing the over 236 million tons we generate each year has every day environmental and economic consequences. 

While America is making gains in the effort to reduce the amount of waste produced each year and to improve the way we deal with garbage, there is still work to do.  And every American can help.  Start by getting educated.

What's in the Waste Stream?

The amount of garbage, called municipal solid waste, Americans generate has inched upwards since 1960, from 88 million tons to over 236 million tons in 2003, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).

In 1960, each American produced about 2.7 pounds of garbage per day.  By 2003, this amount had stabilized at 4.5 pounds a person each day after rising throughout the 1990s.
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Integrated Waste Management

To effectively handle these millions of tons of garbage, communities employ different processing and disposal methods.  When more than one method is used, it's called integrated waste management. 

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The U.S. EPA has prioritized integrated waste management options in a hierarchy.  Most communities use some or all of these options: 

1. Source reduction and reuse
2. Recycling
3. Composting
4. Waste-to-energy
5. Landfilling

Successful integrated waste management, according to the U.S. EPA, considers how to prevent, recycle, and manage solid waste in ways that most effectively protect human health and the environment.  This means evaluating local impacts of solid waste, and then selecting and combining the most appropriate waste management options. 

 

 

What is "Municipal Solid Waste?"

Municipal solid waste or MSW, is all the garbage, including organics like grass and leaves, generated by households, commercial sites (restaurants, stores, offices, etc.), and institutions (schools, museumss, public parks, etc.). Materials such as packaging and office paper from small- to mid-size factories, called "light industrial sites," are also part of this mix.

Teacher Backgrounders

1. Source reduction and reuse
2. Composting
3. Recycling
4. Waste-to-Energy
5. Landfilling

Clean Sweep U.S.A., a Keep America Beautiful community.

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