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April 25, 2018  |  Login
ecomii guides guide to waste and recycling  

Facts & Figures

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Facts & Figures

Trash. Rubbish. Garbage. Refuse. All that stuff that we as humans throw out can go by many names. Formally speaking, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labels everything Americans discard as Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). But no matter what you call it, waste is becoming one of the fundamental environmental issues of the times.

Here in the United States, our growing population generates more and more waste every year; in 2006 alone, we threw out over 250 million tons of trash. These mountains of waste are a problem for a number of reasons: the resources consumed to produce all this disposable stuff; the energy and costs of shipping trash to landfills or incinerators; the increasing scarcity of landfill space; and ground-level air pollution caused by burning waste. Our waste even has a significant impact on global warming. The list goes on and on.

But don’t despair—it’s not all bad news. Even here in America, where the reigning “disposable” mindset of our culture encourages citizens to buy, use, and throw away, there are positive signs. More and more Americans, individuals and government alike, are understanding the importance of reducing the amount of true waste (that is, trash that isn’t recycled or reused) we produce. It’s getting easier and easier for everyone—from businesses and institutions to individuals—to lessen their contribution to the waste stream.

This guide takes an in depth look at all aspects of waste: specific problems it causes, the composition of our waste stream, and what can be done to resolve the problems it creates.

1. US EPA. Basic Information: Municipal Solid Waste. Available from: [27 December 2007]

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