Waste at U.S. Level
(Part One in a Three Part Series by Paul Slocum–Sustainability Research Student Worker)
Sustainably dealing with waste is one of most challenging issues facing governments on the national level. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) branch of the U.S. government is tasked with all of the environmental issues plaguing the United States today, and effectively dealing with municipal waste remains one of their most problematic tasks, as municipal-waste management is largely orchestrated by state legislature. According to the EPA, “In 2009, 243 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) was produced in the United States. Currently, 34% of the 243 million tons is recovered and recycled or composted” (EPA). These 2009 totals from the EPA are their last numerical records of nationally produced solid municipal waste– and their webpage was last revised in 2012. However in 2009, “of the remaining MSW that is discarded, 12% is burned at combustion facilities and 54% is landfilled” (EPA). Yet more recent studies by the Columbia University in 2011 reaffirm the fact that the United States landfills far too much of its municipal solid waste, as: “if all MSW landfilled in 2011 was diverted to waste-to-energy plants, it would supply enough electricity to power 13.8 million homes” (Simet).