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Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste Essay

Municipal solid waste generally known as ‘garbage’ constitutes various forms of waste like durable and non durable goods. Durable goods may include all those materials that do not decompose easily while non durable include food waste, plastics, packaging materials and yard waste to mention just a few. Generally, municipal solid waste is composed of office and retail waste as well as the entire household waste (Melosi, 2005). However, it is important to mention that industrial hazardous and construction waste is usually excluded from this category.

Waste disposal has always been an issue of concern since failure to do so appropriately can result to various health hazards. Nevertheless, it is becoming an issue of concern currently due to the fact that the waste is increasing as years progress. In United States, various methods have been used to effectively and appropriately dispose such waste. This paper shall therefore trace the history of development of waste disposal in United States and describe various methods that are currently being used for the same purpose. 2. 0 Background Information

2. 1 Literature Review Studies indicate that waste generation in the United States is on the increase. It has increased by more than 67% since the year 1980 and the current level of total waste generated is two hundred and fifty four tons per year (Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan, 2009). In the year 2007, packaging containers accounted for 30. 9% of the total municipal solid waste, papers and plastics and other non durable goods accounted for 24. 5%, and lastly durable, food scraps and yard timings accounted for the rest.

Although there is a slight variation every year, it is clear that municipal solid waste has been increasing steadily since 1980s. Given that waste disposal is a very sensitive issue in any country, the United States government puts in effort to ensure that waste is disposed in the most appropriate ways. Apart from providing funds for the same purpose, it has established an agency known as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose main duty is to conduct necessary research concerning waste disposal and to ensure proper waste disposal. There are many methods of waste disposal that have been used to dispose waste in the United States.

According to the studies of EPA (2010), Bassis (n. d) and Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan, (2009), landfills are the commonly used facilities of refuse disposal because for instance in the year 2007, 54% of the total municipal solid waste management was disposed in the landfills. The capacity of landfills is on the increase although the total number of landfills is on the decline. Recycling or composting and combustion are also methods that are used extensively. Studies of A Short History of Municipal Solid Waste (n. d) indicate that all the three methods have a long history since their usage started in the 20th century

3. 0 Methodology This study was conducted mainly through the literature review on the current methods of municipal solid waste disposal in United States and also on the history of refuse disposal in the same country. The focal point of the study was mainly on publications that address the issue of municipal solid waste and the disposal methods. There is a lot of literature regarding the same but a lot of information has been derived from Environmental Protection Agency Publications as it is a body that ensures that refuse is disposed appropriately and conducts research on the same area.

Statistics have been derived from a University of Michigan factsheet as it is a credible source. Books and other credible websites have also been used especially to trace the history of refuse disposal in the country. It bears noting that the research was limited to substantial secondary sources in order to employ studies already carried out by others on the same topic. Finally, the research was divided to various sections to ensure that the topic was studied comprehensively. 3. 0 Results and Findings 3. 1 History of Municipal Solid Waste Disposal in America Proper municipal solid waste management in America started in the 19th century.

The system started in New York and was under the management of Street Cleaning Commission. The main duty of the commission was to arrange for the transportation of garbage from streets to dumping cites and incinerators. By the year 1910, a lot of municipalities in US had already established systems of waste collection and disposal. It is important to note that there was no clear distinction between industrial and municipal solid waste by then since there was no agency that had been given the mandate of managing solid waste. Any judgment concerning the same was being made by department of health and sanitation and other individuals.

However, in the year 1976, regulations and guidelines regarding the disposal of both hazardous and non hazardous waste were established. In addition, the Congress continued to come up with more laws, regulations and guidelines to both regulate waste disposal and to minimize its generation (A Short History of Municipal Solid Waste, n. d). 3. 2 Initial Methods of Waste Disposal used in US Research has indicated that United States is among the leading nations in the production of municipal waste. However, it has invented a lot of methods to help deal with the problem.

Study of history has indicated that initially, waste was being collected and taken to dumping cites. Burning was still being used since some cities are recorded to have been burning their wastes as early as towards the end of the nineteenth century. The device which was being used by then was known as cremator and since it was not very effective, people continued to use dumping which was the initial method. However, incinerators which were more effective burners than cremators were built during 1930s and 1940s. In 1950s, the incinerators also closed down as they were dirty due to their emissions which contributed to air pollution.

In the late 1950s, land fills were invented and they have become the most commonly used methods of waste disposal. It has therefore been the duty of the government to improve and upgrade dumping sites like landfills since they are safer and cost effective (A Short History of Municipal Solid Waste, n. d). 3. 3 Current methods of Municipal waste Disposal 3. 31 Landfills A landfill is the most utilized method of waste disposal in US as it is the case in other countries. About 90% of the total municipal waste is stored in landfills.

It is generally a dump site which is dug where waste is spread thinly in compacted layers and then covered by soil. Although there are not so many landfills in America, the three largest landfills can hold a total of 6. 8 million tons. It is a relatively cheap method of waste disposal since the current cost for disposal in a landfill is forty one US dollars per ton. However, 75% of the cost is spent during the transportation and collection process (Bassis, n. d ). As much as landfills are safer than the other methods of waste disposal, there are still some environmental implications linked with their usage.

In addition to loss of land since they occupy a very large area, they can still be a health hazard if not taken care of. The liquid from the landfill can leak and contaminate underground water and land and the emission of methane gas can still be an air pollutant. However, to reduce this, most of the modern landfills are situated in places where soils are less permeable and in places where the water levels are not high as well as in places which are not prone to flooding. Moreover, materials put in a landfill can be solidified to materials like cement or organic polymers with an aim of reducing the leakage (EPA, 2010).

Other methods include combustion and recycling and are discussed below. As the pie chart indicates a 67% of refuse is taken to a landfill, 17% recycled and 16% combusted (Bassis n. d. ) Figure 1 Major Methods of Waste Disposal in US Source: Bassis (n. d. ) 3. 32 Combustion Combustion also known as incineration is a method of waste disposal used specifically to reduce the volume of the waste. 12. 5% of the total municipal solid waste in the year 2007 was disposed through combustion. Once combusted, the volume of the waste is reduced by 75% and then the residue is deposited in a landfill.

Apart from reducing the volume of the waste, the method is very important since it helps recover some materials like cans. In addition, some forms of municipal solid waste like yard trimmings, food and paper are converted in to energy that can be used for other purposes. During the same process, water is converted to steam which is later converted in to electricity. The same energy is also used by incinerators as studies indicate that a fifth of incinerators use energy derived from the refuse (Waste Management – Municipal Solid Waste, 2010).

Combustion can also be a health hazard since pollutants like carbon dioxide, heavy metals and particulate are produced contributing to health problems like asthma and environmental issues like acidification and smog. Nevertheless, technological development reduces pollution through the use of scrubbers and filters which neutralize acidic gases and remove tiny ash particles. Even though there are some health hazards, it is still beneficial as initially highlighted since even the ash derived from the process is used in covering the landfill and during road construction (Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste: Municipal Solid Waste, 2008).

3. 33 Recycling and Composting 33. 4 % of the total municipal solid waste in the year 2007 was recovered for the purposes of recycling or composting which helped to reduce eighty five million tons of waste that would have been taken to landfills. A quarter of all the recovered materials constitute composting materials. It is a very beneficial process due to environmental and financial benefits derived from the same. There are over eight thousand curbside recycling programs that serve almost half of the total population in US.

According to Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan (2009), the number of recycling programs are three times more than they were in the year 1990. About 74% of corrugated boxes , 78% newspapers, 67% of major appliances, 49% of aluminum beverage cans and 72% of office papers are usually recovered. Other items such as carpets, plastic bags and small appliances are recovered in small quantities. Recycling helps not only in preventing environmental pollution, but also in conserving natural resources. 4. 0 Conclusions Landfills, recycling and combustion are the there major methods of municipal solid waste disposal in United States.

After the waste is collected, it is sorted out to determine the best place of disposal. Landfill is usually the last resort since refuse that cannot be recycled and the residue obtained after combustion is usually taken to a landfill. Despite the fact that there are many ways of municipal solid disposal in United States, it is still a problem due to the fact that its capacity continues to increase daily. It therefore follows that the best method of alleviating the problem of municipal solid waste is basically by reducing the generation of the same.

This can easily be achieved if consumers can take a firm stand and reject goods and items produced using materials that greatly contribute to the high capacity of municipal solid waste. It may not be an easy step but it can be a very important measure of conserving the environment now and in future. References A Short History of Municipal Solid Waste. (n. d. ). Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. texascenter. org/almanac/Waste/MUNICIPALCH8P1. HTML Bassis, L. (n. d. ). Waste Disposal. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. umich. edu/~gs265/society/wastedisposal. htm Center for Sustainable Systems: University of Michigan.

( 2009). Municipal Solid Waste. Retrieved 13 August, 2010, from http://css. snre. umich. edu/css_doc/CSS04-15. pdf EPA. (2010). Landfills. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. epa. gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/landfill. htm Melosi, M. V. (2005). Garbage in the cities: refuse, reform, and the environment. Pittsburgh: Univ of Pittsburgh Press . Waste Management – Municipal Solid Waste. (2010). Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. texascenter. org/almanac/Waste/MUNICIPALCH8P1. HTML Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste: Municipal Solid Waste. (2008). Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www. epa. gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/combustion. htm


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