1. INTRODUCTION Municipalities are responsible for managing the solid waste generated in their jurisdictions. The primary purpose of municipal waste management is to handle waste safely, economically, and in a way that protects human health and the environment. Municipalities have many possible alternatives for municipal (MSW) management. Each community has its own criteria for the technologies it selects, and it needs to compare the various alternatives to choose an appropriate single waste handling technology or an integrated combination of technologies to form a waste management strategy.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recognized the need to provide a foundation for comparing available methods of managing MSW. In response, DOE initiated a study to gather and review publicly available information on various waste management technologies, assess the quality of the data, and convert the data to a consistent basis for ease in comparing alternatives. This report summarizes the results.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that U.S. MSW(1) totaled 180 million tons in 1988(2) and will grow over the next decade at a rate of 1.5% per year, twice the rate of growth in the population (FR, l991h). Other recent examinations of the estimates used by the EPA indicate that the rate of growth of MSW has been constant over the period 1970-1984 (for which data were analyzed), and that the amount of MSW generated increases directly with population growth, which is currently averaging 0.75% per year (Alter, 1991).

At present, 69-73% of all MSW is land filled, and 17% is combusted in 176 municipal waste combustors (NSWMA, 1991). Some sources claim that recycling now handles 10-14% of U.S. waste (EPA, 1990).

Objectives, Scope, Methodology


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