Solid Waste Policy in the United States

Solid Waste Policy in
the United States
Leah Missik, Aliaksei Babko, Brijesh Krishnan
What is Solid Waste?
Solid Waste - The term ‘‘solid waste’’ means any garbage, refuse, sludge from a waste treatment plant, water
supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid,
semisolid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural
operations, and from community activities (RCRA, 2002)
Non - Hazardous Waste
Municipal Solid
Hazardous Waste
Industrial Waste
Agricultural Waste
Household Waste
Generation and Disposal
Treatment Plants
Recovery & Recycling
Trends in Generation and Landfills
Trends – Disposal
Trends – MSW Change in Composition
Solid Waste Management - the systematic administration of
activities which provide for the collection, source separation, storage,
transportation, transfer, processing, treatment, and disposal of solid waste
(EPA Definitions)
Effects and damages
Open dumping
PM emissions
Landfill seepage
CO₂ Emissions
CH₄ Emissions
Air pollution
Health Impacts
Food Chain contamination
Ground / Surface water
Land depletion
Environmental degradation
Animal and Plant life
Policy Instruments – Taxes (Fees!) and
• Deposit Refund
- “Bottle Bills”
- In 10 states
- Usually 5 cents per bottle
• Pay As You Throw
- Residents are charged
based on how much they
throw away (usually per bag or can)
- In more than 7000 communities
Policy Instruments – Command &
• Permits
- Needed to ensure safe
standards for hazardous
• Technology standards
- For landfill and incinerator
• “Cradle-to-Grave”
- Production, transportation, storage, and disposal
Policy Instruments - Voluntary
• Challenges/Goals
- EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge
• Programs and Partnerships
- GreenScapes, WasteWise
• Information
- Provided by the EPA on best methods of
waste disposal and recycling for individuals and
businesses alike
- Labeling
Waste management legislative history
Solid Waste Disposal Act
(SWDA) of 1965
Resource Recovery Act of
Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act (RCRA) of
Environmental Response,
Compensation, and
Liability Act (CERCLA) of
Used Oil Recycling Act of
Solid Waste Disposal Act
Amendments of 1980
Hazardous and Solid Waste
Amendments (HSWA) of
Medical Waste Tracking
Act of 1988
Federal Facility Compliance
Act of 1992
Land Disposal Program
Flexibility Act of 1996
RCRA cleanup reforms I&II
of 1999 and 2001
EPA’s three comprehensive waste
management programs
Subtitle C - Hazardous waste
• 47 states (all but Alaska, Hawaii, and Iowa) had received final authorization to run the
pre-1984-amendment elements of the program
• In order to receive final authorization, a state's program must be equivalent to, no less
stringent than, and consistent with the federal program.
Subtitle D - Solid (non-hazardous) waste
• The major (non-hazardous) solid waste provision in RCRA is the prohibition of open
dumps. This prohibition is implemented by the states, using EPA criteria to determine
which facilities qualify as sanitary landfills and may remain open.
• While EPA is the lead agency under RCRA, the Department of Commerce is given several
responsibilities for encouraging greater commercialization of resource recovery
technology. The Department has not played an active role, however.
Subtitle I - Underground storage tanks
• The law directed EPA to set operating requirements and technical standards for tank
design and installation, leak detection, spill and overfill control, corrective action, and
tank closure. The UST program (RCRA Subtitle I) is to be administered primarily by states.
RCRA accomplishments
Established "cradle-to-grave" tracking of hazardous waste.
Caused the closure of a large number of mismanaged facilities; two-thirds of
non-compliant; land disposal facilities closed.
Prevented the disposal of untreated wastes into and onto the land.
Assessed over 1,600 facilities to determine if there were releases from solid
waste management units.
Authorized 47 states for the base RCRA program.
Permitted more than 900 hazardous waste management facilities.
Statutory & Regulatory
Established design and performance standards for landfills and treatment
Lessons learned
Close Congressional oversight could limit flexibility
Program evaluation and long-term priorities should be strengthened
Old regulations should be revised; New regulations could make it difficult
for state programs
Stronger focus on Environmental Data is needed
State authorization should be faster
Alternates should be examined
Potential regulatory overlaps or inconsistencies should be addressed
Political and legislative constraints
Congress and EPA are influenced by environmental groups from one
side and industry from the other
Congress wants visible and quick results
States see federal control as an excessive
Failure to integrate joint goals and priorities across EPA
Traditionally, the courts had deferred to EPA on policy issues,
allowing EPA to use its own judgment when it has statutory
discretion. However, they later became less tolerant of EPA. As a
result, there were several successful lawsuits brought by
environmental groups and industry. For example, in a recent
Superfund case the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed a theory under
which companies can be held liable for clean-up costs as
“arrangers” of waste disposal. BNSF Railway Co. v. United States,
556 U.S. (May 4, 2009)
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