MSW does not include other forms of waste generated by agricultural, industrial or mining operations, nor does it include sewage sludge, construction & demolition waste, auto bodies, or fats and grease.
Steps in the solid waste process include:
- Waste generation
- Waste collection
- Sorting and separation
- Disposal/Recycling/Energy Generation
Examples of Sources and Solid Waste Creation
Outlined below, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides examples of the main categories of waste generation, and typical waste items.
- Residential: Newspapers, clothing, disposable tableware, food packaging, cans and bottles, food scraps, yard trimmings
- Commercial: Corrugated boxes, food scraps, office papers, disposable tableware, paper napkins, yard trimmings
- Institutional: Cafeteria and restroom trash can wastes, office papers, classroom wastes, yard trimmings
- Industrial (packaging and administrative, not process wastes): Corrugated boxes, plastic film, wood pallets, lunchroom wastes, office papers
Trends Over Time
Municipal Solid Waste characteristics have changed over time. MSW generation increased annually from 1960, when it was 88 million tons, until 2007. After 2007, the tons of MSW generated started to decrease.
In terms of waste generated per person, the rate in 1960 was just 2.68 pounds per person per day; it grew to 3.66 pounds per person per day in 1980, reached 4.72 pounds per person per day in 2000, and decreased to 4.67 pounds per person per day in 2005. Since 2005, MSW generation per capita rate has continued to decline, reaching 4.34 pounds per person per day in 2009. This largely reflects increased success in diverting waste material from landfills.