MEE 5901, Advanced Solid Waste Management 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit I Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
1. Assess the fundamental science and engineering principles of solid waste management.
7. Examine the impact of solid waste on human populations.
Reading Assignment Chapter 1: Integrated Solid Waste Management Chapter 2: Municipal Solid Waste Characteristics and Quantities
Unit Lesson During the last 10 years, the European Union (EU) has seen a 25% increase in the per capita generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) and a 30% increase in the generation of hazardous waste (European Environment Agency, 2013; Eurostat, 2016). In Asia, MSW is expected to increase by 150% in the next 20 years (Hoornweg & Bhada-Tata, 2012). Government regulators and corporations are looking for ways to reduce and better manage these wastes. One option is to use the principles of the Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) program. The ISWM program is structured with the highest priority being the prevention of waste from being generated. The lowest-ranked priority involves the final disposal of the waste in a landfill facility. When waste is generated in a manufacturing facility, every attempt is made to reduce its quantity by using sustainable consumption processes that utilize fewer toxic and hazardous materials in the manufacturing processes. The next highest priority in the hierarchy is recycling or reusing waste in commercially viable products. To properly protect human health and the environment, waste that has no commercial value must be disposed of. Before going straight to a landfill, opportunities need to be explored that are related to the recovery of heat and energy by incineration or other thermal oxidation processes. Incineration also has the added advantage of converting the large quantity of organic materials down to a reduced quantity of ash residue that is disposed of in the landfill. As cities grow in population and commerce leading to the generation of increased quantities of waste, communities need to adopt and implement an ISWM program to manage these wastes. The composition of municipal wastes is also shifting as lifestyles and consumption patterns change between the generations. Industrial facilities are becoming more complex, and they are using more complex hazardous and toxic materials to maximize profits in global markets. In many older communities, there are legacy sites where waste has been improperly disposed of, and these sites are now exerting adverse impacts to groundwater and drinking water aquifers. During the last few years, residents have been taking control of their environments, and they are now requiring companies to be more responsible in how they manage their wastes. Companies are being held accountable to fulfill their promise to be good corporate citizens in the local communities where they operate. With the implementation of new and updated state and local regulations, waste management compliance is getting more complex as additional regulatory obligations and permit requirements are more strictly enforced. All of this is causing companies to rethink their waste management strategies and to find ways of not creating waste in their manufacturing and facility operations. This often requires stakeholders’ involvement in the management process, including the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) subject matter expert. For both the public and private sectors, ISWM programs have many benefits when properly implemented. Neighborhoods are less polluted, and there is less demand for waste collection and disposal. Companies see
Integrated Solid Waste Management
MEE 5901, Advanced Solid Waste Management 2
cost savings and increased margins when they are more efficient in their use of raw materials in manufacturing operations. Company reputations and product branding are enhanced when companies implement best management technologies and practices. The composition of ISWM plans include the following key elements:
 policies related to regulations and finances,
 technologies covering equipment and operations,
 voluntary programs undertaken by a facility,
 waste management systems,
 data on waste generation and characterization, and
 reporting and recordkeeping. MSW is not homogenous in its composition. In the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) regulation, MSW is defined according to the categories of food and yard wastes, durable and non-durable goods, packaging and containers, and miscellaneous inorganics. Other systems classify MSW according to its nature; this includes the categories of inorganic and organic, putrescible and infectious, hazardous and combustible, and recyclable waste. There are many factors that affect the rates that MSW is generated. The most important factor is public attitude. If local citizens support recycle and reuse, waste quantities of MSW that require disposal are reduced. If packaging containers are used only one time and then disposed as trash, this results in large quantities of MSW being generated and managed. Other factors affecting waste quantities are population density, the average size of households, the age distribution and level of unemployment in the community, the use of residential food disposal units, collection frequency, and per capital income. One example of how these factors impact the type and quantity of waste generation involves what happens in low income areas where there is a low generation in the amount of plastics, cardboard, and paper but an increased quantity of wastes high in organic content. The weight of MSW varies by season and moisture content. The density of MSW depends on storage time, equipment, and the processing levels of the waste materials. Shredding is used to standardize the particle sizes of wastes. Higher densities and compaction levels can be achieved when particles are similar in size. Municipalities often set up compost operations. These have the benefit of keeping organic materials out of the landfill and putting these into a compost pile. Composting involves aerobic degradation where organics are converted to carbon dioxide. The organic matter is converted by microbes into biomass that can be reused for multiple purposes. On the other hand, landfills are anaerobic, and in the absence of oxygen, organics are degraded into methane and carbon dioxide. One molecule of methane is 17 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Therefore, using compost piles helps to reduce the greenhouse gas burden on the environment. In addition, compost piles also help to extend the life of the landfill by keeping waste materials out and making room for other categories of MSW for which composting is not an option. Compost can be used as a soil amendment and as a fertilizer supplement for growing crops and garden flowers. Compost is also an excellent substitute for peat and top soil. In some communities, compost is also used as soil fill for landfills. It is important to keep hazardous and toxic wastes out of landfills. The RCRA has special requirements and obligations for storing, transporting and disposing of hazardous wastes. Toxic chemicals are known to wipe out sensitive microbial populations that help to stabilize waste placed into the landfill. Losing the microbial populations tasked to stabilize the landfill will minimize the conversion rate that waste is degraded to methane and carbon dioxide. Toxic materials may also lead to the generation of leachate (water that drains from a landfill and has picked up some of the toxic materials) when water gets into the landfill after the landfill is closed and abandoned. This leachate can contaminate groundwater that is used by farmers to irrigate crops and as a source of drinking water for farm animals and the home. Depending on the toxic chemical, it is possible that some of these toxic chemicals can get into the milk supply and cause harm to children and other vulnerable sectors of the population. To address the issue of toxic and hazardous wastes, many communities have specific dates for collecting and disposing of hazardous and toxic wastes after which these are consolidated and transported to a hazardous disposal site for destruction and disposal.
MEE 5901, Advanced Solid Waste Management 3
Mismanagement of MSW can have dire consequences in local communities, and when it becomes known to the public, municipalities will have a harder time attracting new industries and jobs into the area. When the growth of municipalities slows or begin to shrink, the tax base of the community is adversely impacted as housing prices are reduced when more people relocate out of the community and companies choose to relocate to other communities, especially when the populations of skilled workers available to hire is reduced.
European Environment Agency. (2013). Managing municipal solid waste – A review of achievements in 32 European countries. Retrieved from waste#tab-figures-used
Eurostat. (2016). Municipal waste statistics. Retrieved from
explained/index.php/Municipal_waste_statistics Hoornweg, D., & Bhada-Tata, P. (2012). What a waste: A global review of solid waste management.
Retrieved from 1334852610766/What_a_Waste2012_Final.pdf
Suggested Reading To learn more about municipal solid waste, take a few minutes to view this PowerPoint that covers the subject in more depth. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Municipal solid waste [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved
Learning Activities (Non-Graded) Review and consider the following questions/topics related to the content of this unit:
1. Discuss the changes that the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Subpart D brought to the 1965 Solid Waste Disposal Act.
2. Describe how the differences between a dump and a sanitary waste landfill affect the environment.
3. A sanitary landfill uses a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer to move trash into the burial cell and to compact the
trash from the weight of the bulldozer driving over the trash. Look up the weight of a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer and the area of the tread that contacts the trash. Calculate the maximum compaction in the landfill.
4. How has the plastics industry responded to the proposal that plastic bags be restricted for use in
grocery and retail stores? Non-graded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.