Waste Management

As the world economy grows so does its production of municipal and hazardous wastes.  To illustrate how rapidly such a problem is growing, US production of hazardous waste rose from only 9 million tons in 197o to 238 million tons by 1990.  In many developed countries, government targets have been set for the percentage recycling of municipal waste.  Also, many developing countries, especially in Europe and Japan, have implemented municipal waste-to-energy resource recovery plants which also reduce the amount of waste that has to be landfilled, but also reduced the costs of transporting waste to distant landfills.  In the United States, the federal government aggressively funded prototype plants and programs to promote municipal waste reduction, recycling, source separation, and resource recovery in the 1970’s.  With the election of President Reagan, however, a decision was made to eliminate the federal government’s municipal waste management and recycling/resource recovery programs.  As a consequence, the U.S. has generally lagged behind other developed countries around the world in implementing recycling and resource recovery programs.  Meanwhile, the disposal of electronics such as computers and household chemicals increasingly are finding their way into the municipal waste stream, creating new problems related to waste management.  In an idealized world, our first priority should be waste reduction whenever possible, followed by waste source separation and recycling.  Where this is not possible, municipal and hazardous waste management plants need to be constructed to take advantage of the latest technologies for waste separation and resource recovery, including waste-to-energy plants that break down and destroy hazardous wastes which recovering useful energy.  Where landfilling continues to be used, it needs to be done in a technologically advanced method involving liners and methane gas capture that prevents ground water pollution and eliminates the release of gases that contribute to global warming.  The key words for both municipal and hazardous waste management continue to be:  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.


~ by americanpresidents on February 25, 2010.

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