International Solid Waste Management

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Because solid waste is generated everywhere, addressing the environmentally safe management of solid waste is not limited to the United States. Management strategies vary by country and region, although most programs address waste issues with models consisting of some combination of source reduction, combustion, recycling, and landfills. For example, the European Environment Agency (EEA) offers solid-waste management guidance analogous to EPA's integrated hierarchy. Specifically, the Community Strategy on Waste recommends that the agency's eighteen-member countries make waste prevention their top priority, followed by materials recovery, energy recovery, and, finally, the safe disposal of waste.

The international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compiles worldwide data, including environmental statistics, for its thirty member countries. The bar graphs on the next page compare the total amount of municipal waste generated annually and the annual amount of municipal waste generated per capita, respectively, by the United States and other selected OECD member countries in 1997. Per capita waste generation rates vary significantly by country; factors contributing to such discrepancies may include individual lifestyle and national economic structure. Although individual national definitions may differ, for the purpose of analysis here, OECD regards municipal waste as waste collected by or on the order of municipalities, including that originating from households, commercial activities, office buildings, institutions such as school and government buildings, and small businesses.

The environmentally safe management of municipal solid waste may always be an issue, simply because societies will continue to generate trash due to increasing populations and the growing demands of modern society. Working together, federal, state, and local governments, industry, and citizens have made substantial progress in effectively responding to solid waste leachate water that collects contaminants as it trickles through wastes, pesticides, or fertilizers; leaching may occur in farming areas, feedlots, and landfills, and may result in hazardous substances entering surface water, ground water, or soil

(top) Comparison of annual amounts of MSW generated by the United States and other selected OECD countries in 1997. Generation amounts are in 1,000 tons. (bottom) Comparison of annual amounts of MSW generated per capita by the United States and other selected OECD countries in 1997. Generation amounts are in kilograms per capita. (Both based on statistics from OECD Environmental Data 1999.)

Municipal Solid Waste Generated by Country in 1SS7

200,000 180,000 160,000 140,000 120,000 i00,000 80,000 60,000 40,000


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