FIGURE 2-2 Trends in municipal solid-waste generation and management in the United States, 1960-2010. Source: Franklin Associates 1997.

increased generation since 1970 has more than compensated for reductions due to recycling and composting.

Although it is still the predominant method of solid-waste management in the United States, the fraction landfilled was smaller in 1996 at 56% than it was in 1985 at 83% (Franklin Associates 1998). Incineration rates have varied over the last few decades (Figure 2-2 and Table 2-2). In 1960, combustion in low-efficiency combustors without energy recovery or advanced pollution-control technology burned 31% of the municipal solid waste generated. In 1980, incineration was down to 9%. However, because of increased emphasis on waste-to-energy conversion, by 1990, incineration had increased to 16% of total waste generation. By 2000, incineration is projected by EPA to decrease slightly to 15.6%.

A decrease in the total capacity of municipal-waste incinerators is thought to have occurred for several reasons: the continued availability of lower-cost disposal alternatives (such as landfilling); opposition from local advocacy groups, which has resulted in municipal planners ' rejection of waste-incinerator construction at many locations; mandatory recycling programs and increasing confidence in reduction and reuse as options; and the loss of flow control of municipal wastes.2

Uncontrolled combustion of municipal solid waste has been practiced for many years by individual homeowners burning trash, and by managers of hotels


“Flow control” refers to legal provisions that allow state and local governments to designate the places where municipal solid waste is taken for processing, treatment, or disposal.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement