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Municipal Solid Waste in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Waste management methods in the United States are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). It encourages the environmental departments of each state to develop plans to manage municipal solid waste. Waste management includes all activities and actions required to manage waste from its source to its final disposal. It encompasses the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of waste. Municipal solid waste is commonly known as everyday garbage and trash produced by households, commercial, and institutional entities.

MSW generation in the U.S.

The United States accounts for roughly four percent of the global population, but it is responsible for 12 percent of global municipal solid waste generation. In 2018, the total generation of MSW in the U.S. reached a high of 292 million tons, which equated to 4.9 pounds of MSW per capita per day. Increased population and urbanization - in addition to a rising throw-away culture influenced by consumerism - has seen U.S. waste generation increase dramatically over the years, growing by 40 percent since 1990. Paper and paperboard products represent the largest share of all waste materials that enter the U.S. MSW stream, and has done for many decades. This is followed by food waste, which has been increasing more and more in recent years. It is estimated that the average U.S. household produces 19.36 metric tons of food waste per year, which is one of the highest amounts worldwide.

MSW disposal methods

With such vast quantities of waste generated each year, proper waste disposal is needed to keep environments clean and protect our health. There are a number of waste disposal methods available in the U.S, including landfilling, incineration, and recycling. Recycling in the U.S. has increased considerably since it first began in the 1960, and as of 2018 accounted for approximately 24 percent of MSW disposals. Despite the increased use of recycling to deal with waste, landfilling is still the main treatment method in the country, and accounts for 50 percent of disposals. Of the 146 million tons of landfilled MSW in 2018, a quarter was food waste. There are currently more than 1,200 MSW landfill sites in the U.S. 26 percent of managed landfill volume in the U.S. is managed by Waste Management Inc – the largest U.S. waste management company.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "Municipal Solid Waste in the U.S.".


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