The United States is sinking under a tidal wave of waste.
The U.S. has no effective federal laws or infrastructure in place to minimize waste, maximize recycling, nor protect the environment and public health. It's as if Detroit built cars, but the government refused to pass any traffic laws. That's the current state of waste management in the United States, out-of-control. What happened to the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976? Nothing much.
The 'state plan' provisions of the Act requires the states to come up with their own plans to maximize recycling and minimize waste. A 50-state solution (rather than 1 federal plan) was never a great idea to begin with. And as with many other environmental laws, there has been no effective enforcement by the EPA, in any case.
The goal of 'Zero Waste' depends on ordinary people like you and me to lead by example and transition to a lifestyle that protects human health and the environment, as well as lobby for 'disposal bans' and other solutions that make sense.
This website is devoted to educating visitors on the state of waste management in the U.S. and what you can do about it. Much of the information is still current, but some is dated. So please, take the time to explore the many webpages contained within.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Something personal. Something political.
1. Here's a SIMPLE 2-STEP PLAN: minimize consumption / maximize self-reliance
2. Pass legislation for DISPOSAL BANS!
ATTENTION STUDENTS AND TEACHERS! This website is mainly "serve yourself". We do not send out literature, media kits, etc. We will try to answer any emails and phone calls, but please do not send us postal letters to respond to.
Lynn Landes, ZWA Founder
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call / 215-629-3553
Check out www.LynnLandes.com for other issues Lynn is involved in.
Summary of Government's Role:
Recycling efforts struggle against three factors: No effective federal plan exists to maximize recycling and minimize waste even though the federal government took ultimate responsibility for the nation's waste management in The Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976. The Act requires states to develop and implement plans to maximize recycling and minimize waste, but after 26 years, the states have yet to comply and the EPA is not enforcing the Act. Many states point to the lack of a comprehensive federal waste and recycling plan as the reason for their failure to successfully implement their own plans.
Foreign waste imports and U.S. domestic waste exports are virtually uncontrolled under federal law. Since 1997, the 50 states imported 48 million tons more waste than they exported, according to data in Biocycle magazine, an industry publication.
Over-population makes waste reduction extremely difficult. Most population experts believe that the ideal population for the U.S. ranges between 100-150 million people, compared to our current 2019 population of 328 million.
Three legislative solutions to Zero Waste in the United States:
1. Develop and implement a comprehensive 'federal plan' to end waste disposal, chiefly through the use of disposal bans - these may be the best tools to support recycling, end waste disposal, and stop waste imports. States may implement 'disposal bans' now, without waiting for federal action. Minimum recycled content standards, removing unnecessary toxic components, and producer responsibility regulations can also be used to support recycling and end waste disposal. In the absence of a federal plan, litigation in the federal courts is an option for The Department of Justice, state governments, private citizens, and others to compel the EPA, as well as the states and U.S. territories, to enforce the 'sate plan' provisions of the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
2. Congressional legislation is needed to prohibit the import and export of disposal waste from foreign countries. This is an issue not addressed in the Solid Waste Disposal Act. See: Foreign Waste Imports
3. Support for legal immigration and safe family planning programs (This is not an endorsement of abortion-on-demand or some common contraceptives that can be harmful to human health and the environment.)
ADDITIONAL WASTE ISSUES AND INFORMATION:
Read Lynn Landes's still timely 1997 article, "River of Waste" published in a compilation of articles
for high school students called, Pollution: Opposing Viewpoints Series by Greenhaven Press.
Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1976 - The Act required states to develop and implement "state plans" that "maximize" waste reduction and recycling by 1980. Most states ignored the Act and implemented voluntary recycling programs, instead. EPA has refused to enforce the Act on the false premises of 'unfunded mandate' and state control.
State Waste Imports - The Federal Courts have ruled that states can not control waste imports through discriminatory laws directed against waste imports. However, ‘disposal bans’, when equally applied to both in-state and out-of-state waste, do not discriminate and do pass judicial review.
Economics of Waste - For every one job waste disposal creates, recycling creates 5-10 jobs. It is estimated that Americans spend $100/ton to dispose of 'municipal waste'. In 1999, we disposed of approximately 274 million tons of mostly municipal waste at an approximate cost of $27 billion. That may be only 2% of total waste disposed. In addition, industries that compete directly with recycling (mining, logging, etc.), received 15 federal tax and spending subsidies totaling $13 billion from 1992-1997.
Statistics - America generates more waste every year, growing from a 247 million tons of non-hazardous waste in 1990, to 409 million tons in 2001, according to BioCycle magazine, an industry publication. Although 32% of municipal waste is reported to be recycled, there are two problems with this picture. One is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated in 1988 that municipal waste was only 2% of all waste generated, and secondly, the total amount of waste generated, recycled, or disposed is not truly known because the EPA has not collected or confirmed that data. Failure to do so is in violation of federal requirements.
Waste Disposed (or Generated - Recycled) + Imports + Exports divided by Population = Waste Mgt. Performance
States' Politics of Waste - In order to placate public outrage at uncontrolled waste imports, some state legislatures have passed legislation that discriminates against out-of-state waste - a tactic they know won’t pass federal court review.
Federal Interstate Waste Legislation - Many politicians have said that only Congressional action can stop waste imports. Not true. Disposal bans can be used to affect waste imports. Also, most of the proposed federal legislation does not protect states from waste imports, but instead allows local communities to sign agreements with waste companies, over-riding potential state laws to limit waste imports.
WHAT IS WASTE? Includes U.S. Federal Definitions of Waste Types
Editor's note: Some of the info on this website has not been updated. That said, not much has changed on the old trash pile.