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Waste Management in the United States - Statistics & Facts

The United States is one of the largest producers of waste worldwide, and as such, waste management is a major industry in the country. The U.S. waste industry manages several different waste types, including municipal solid waste, industrial waste, and hazardous waste. Many of the world’s largest waste management companies are based in the U.S., such as industry giants Waste Management Inc. and Republic Services. As of 2019, the North American waste management market was valued at 208 billion U.S. dollars, with the U.S. accounting for much of the market. U.S. waste is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Municipal solid waste treatment and disposal

The waste management industry is responsible for collecting, treating, and disposing of waste types in a manner that minimizes environmental and health impacts. There a several waste disposal methods available, including landfilling, recycling, and energy recovery. Of the roughly 300 million tons of MSW generated in the U.S. each year, 50 percent is disposed of at landfill sites while less than a quarter is recycled. Although MSW recycling rates in the U.S. have increased considerably since the 1960s, progress has stalled since the 2010s, and in 2018 dropped to 32.1 percent. U.S. recycling rates are low when compared to other countries, especially those in Europe.

Hazardous waste management in the U.S.

Federal regulations require large quantity hazardous waste generators (those whose sites generate 1,000 kilograms or more any calendar month) to submit a report every two years regarding the hazardous waste generated at their facilities. In 2019, 35.2 million tons of hazardous waste was managed in the U.S. by 965 hazardous waste managers. The chemical manufacturing industry is the biggest generator of hazardous waste, followed by the petroleum and coal products sector. More than 30 billion pounds of production-related TRI-listed chemical waste was produced in 2019, of which 53 percent was recycled. Roughly 11 percent was disposed of in other ways, such as surface water discharges or land disposal.
There are now more than 1,000 hazardous waste sites in the U.S., with the highest numbers found in the states of New Jersey and California. These highly contaminated sites are often referred to as “Superfund sites” and include landfills or mines where toxic waste has been dumped or improperly managed.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 31 most important statistics relating to "Waste Management in the United States".

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