What Is Waste?


 
ZERO WASTE
is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.
 

 

 

WHAT IS WASTE?

Merriam-Webster defines waste as "refuse from places of human or animal habitation." The World Book Dictionary defines waste as "useless or worthless material; stuff to be thrown away."  Unfortunately, both definitions reflect a widespread attitude that does not recognize waste as a resource.

Zero Waste America defines waste as "a resource that is not safely recycled back into the environment or the marketplace." This definition takes into account the value of waste as a resource, as well as the threat unsafe recycling can present to the environment and public health. 

The word 'waste' and the act of 'wasting' are human inventions. Waste doesn't exist in nature. In nature, everything has a purpose. Waste was created by humans for short-term convenience and short-term profit. Wasting results in long-term harmful consequences for both humans, nature, and the economy.


DEFINITIONS OF WASTE TYPES

NOTE:

  • The classification of waste and its disposal is often confusing. Many toxic wastes, including industrial (residual), incinerator ash, asbestos, etc. are disposed in "municipal" landfills.
  • Hazardous waste includes "conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQG)."  CESQG waste is federally defined as hazardous waste, but it is allowed into "municipal" landfills with no cap on the total number of CESQG who may dispose of hazardous waste in a given facility.
  • "Beneficial Use" of waste requires CAUTION! The EPA and state environmental agencies are permitting highly questionable and controversial recycling and reuse of waste for alleged "Beneficial" uses. One example: The land application of sewage sludge.
  • Definitions for the same waste may vary within government statutes, regulations, and legislation.

  • U.S.CODE
    TITLE 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
    CHAPTER 82 - SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL SUBCHAPTER I - GENERAL PROVISIONS 6903

    Note: The U.S. Code (i.e. statutes), always supersedes The Code of Federal Regulations-CFRs (i.e., regulations).  The Code is written by elected representatives, whereas regulations are written by appointed members of the executive branch.  Regulations are promulgated pursuant to specific statutes, and cannot conflict with those statutes or go beyond the purpose of the statutes.

    (5)... "hazardous waste" means a solid waste, or combination of solid wastes, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may - (A) cause, or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (B) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed. (For another definition, see CFR Part 243 below)

    (40)... "medical waste" means any solid waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals. Such term does not include any hazardous waste identified or listed under subchapter III of this chapter or any household waste as defined in regulations under subchapter III of this chapter. (For 'infectious waste' definition, see CFR Part 243 below)

    (41) ..."mixed waste" means waste that contains both hazardous waste and source, special nuclear, or by-product material subject to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.).

    (27)... "solid waste" means any garbage, refuse, sludge from a waste treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities, but does not include solid or dissolved material in domestic sewage, or solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or industrial discharges which are point sources subject to permits under section 1342 of title 33, or source, special nuclear, or byproduct material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (68 Stat. 923) (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.). (For another definition, see CFR Part 243 & 257 below)

    CHAPTER 23 - DEVELOPMENT AND CONTROL OF ATOMIC ENERGY, Division A - Atomic Energy SUBCHAPTER I - GENERAL PROVISIONS 2014

    (ee)..."transuranic waste" means material contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than 92, including neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium, and that are in concentrations greater than 10 nanocuries per gram, or in such other concentrations as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may prescribe to protect the public health and safety.

    CHAPTER 108 - NUCLEAR WASTE POLICY 10101

    (12)..."high-level radioactive waste" means - (A) the highly radioactive material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, including liquid waste produced directly in reprocessing and any solid material derived from such liquid waste that contains fission products in sufficient concentrations; and (B) other highly radioactive material that the Commission, consistent with existing law, determines by rule requires permanent isolation.

    (16)..."low-level radioactive waste" means radioactive material that - (A) is not high-level radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, transuranic waste, or by-product material as defined in section 2014(e)(2) of this title; and (B) the Commission, consistent with existing law, classifies as low-level radioactive waste.


    CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS
    SUBCHAPTER I, PART 243 (1995) - GUIDELINES FOR THE STORAGE AND COLLECTION OF RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, AND INSTITUTIONAL SOLID WASTE (Adobe PDF)

    Solid Waste: Garbage, refuse, sludges, and other discarded solid materials, including solid waster materials resulting from industrial, commercial, and agricultural operations, and from community activities, but does not include solid or dissolved materials in domestic sewage or other significant pollutants in water resources, such as silt, dissolved or suspended solids in industrial wastewater effluents, dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or other common water pollutants. Unless specifically noted otherwise, the term "solid waste' as used in these guidelines shall not include mining, agricultural, and industrial solid wastes; hazardous wastes; sludges; construction and demolition wastes; and infectious wastes. (For another definition see U.S. Code above and CFR Part 257 below)

    • Commercial Solid Waste: All types of solid wastes generated by stores, offices, restaurants, warehouses, and other non-manufacturing activities, excluding residential and industrial wastes.
    • Institutional Solid Waste: Solid wastes generated by educational, health care, correctional and other institutional facilities.
    • Residential Solid Waste: Wastes generated by the normal activities of households including, but not limited to, food wastes, rubbish, ashes, and bulky wastes.

    Hazardous Waste: A waste or combination of wastes of a solid, liquid, contained gaseous, or semisolid form which may cause, or contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness, taking into account the toxicity of such waste, its persistence and degradability in nature, its potential for accumulation or concentration in tissue, and other factors that may otherwise cause or contribute to adverse acute or chronic effects on the health of persons or other organisms. (For another definition, see U.S. Code above)

    Construction/Demolition: Waste building materials, packaging, and rubble resulting from construction, remodeling, repair, and demolition operations on pavements, houses, commercial buildings, and other structures.

    Agricultural Solid Waste: Solid waste that is generated by the rearing of animals, and the producing and harvesting of crops or trees.

    Industrial (Residual) Solid Waste: Solid waste generated by industrial processes and manufacturing.

    Infectious Waste: 1) Equipment, instruments, utensils, and formites of a disposable nature from the rooms of patients who are suspected to have or have been diagnosed as having a communicable disease and must, therefore, be isolated as required by public health agencies; 2) laboratory wastes, such as pathological specimens (e.g., all tissues, specimens of blood elements, excreta, and secretions obtained from patients or laboratory animals) and disposable formites (any substance that may harbor or transmit pathogenic oranisms) attendant thereto: 3) surgical operating room pathologic specimens and disposable formites attendant thereto, and similar disposable materials from outpatient areas and emergency rooms.(See 'medical waste' definition in U.S. Code above).

    Sludge: The accumulated semiliquid suspension of settled solids deposited from wastewaters or other fluids in tanks or basins. it does not include solids or dissolved material in domestic sewage or other significant pollutants in water resources, such as silt, dissolved materials in iffigation return flows or other common water pollutants. (For another definition, see Part 257 below).

    PART 257 (Updated 1997) - CRITERIA FOR CLASSIFICATION OF SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL FACILITIES AND PRACTICES (Adobe PDF) Under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

    Sewage Sludge: Solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works. Sewage sludge includes, but is not limited to, domestic septage; scum or solids removed in primary, secondary, or advanced wastewater treatment processes; and a material derived from sewage sludge. Sewage sludge does not include ash generated during the firing of sewage sludge in a sewage sludge incinerator or grit and screenings generated during preliminary treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works.

    Sludge: Any solid, semisolid, or liquid waste generated from a municipal, commercial, or industrial wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility or any other such waste having similar characteristics and effect. (For another definition, see Part 243 above).

    Solid Waste: Any garbage, refuse, sludge from a waste treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gasious material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agrecultural operations, and from community activities, but does not include solid or dissolved materials in domistic sewage, or solid or dissolved material in irrigation return flows or industrial discharges which are point sources subject to permits under section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended (86 Stat.880), or source, special nuclear, or byproduct material as devined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (68 Stat.923). (For another definition, see U.S. Code above and CFR Part 243 above).

    PART 261 (Updated 1997) - IDENTIFICATION AND LISTING OF HAZARDOUS WASTE

    Mining Wastes: Residues which result from the extraction of raw materials from the earth.

    Scrap Metal: Bits and pieces of metal parts (e.g., bars, turnings, rods, sheets, wire) or metal pieces that may be combined together with bolts or soldering (e.g., radiators, scrap automobiles, railroad box cars), which when worn or superluuous can be recycled.

    • Excluded Scrap Metal: Processed scrap metal, unprocessed home scrap metal, and unprocessed prompt scrap metal.
    • Processed Scrap Meal: Scrap metal which has been manually or physically altered to either separate it into distinct materials to enhance economic value or to improved the handling of materials. processed scrap metal includes, but is not limited to scrap metal which has been abaled, shredded, sheared, chopped, crushed, flattened, cut, melted, or separated by metal type (i.e., sorted), and, fines, drosses and related materials which have been agglomerated. ( nOte: shredded circuit boards being sent for recycling are not cinsidered processed scrap metal. They are covered under the exclusion from the definition of solid waste for shredded circuit boards being recycled (261.4(a)(13)).
    • Home Scrap Metal: Scrap metal as generated by steel mills, foundries, and refinieries, such as turning, cuttings, punchings, and borings.
    • Prompt Scrap Metal: Scrap metal as generated by the metal working/fabrication industries and includes such scrap metal as turnings, cutting, punchings, and borings. Prompt scrap is also known as industrial or new scrap metal.

    PART 273 (1996) - STANDARDS FOR UNIVERSAL WASTE MANAGEMENT (Adobe PDF)

    Universal waste: Household hazardous waste that may be allowed disposal in municipal landfills, specifically: batteries, pesticides, and thermostats.


    HR 1346 Interstate Waste Control Act of 1997-Definitions

    Municipal Solid Waste
    : The term `municipal solid waste' means all waste materials discarded for disposal by households, including single and multifamily residences, and hotels and motels. The term also includes waste materials generated by commercial, institutional, and industrial sources, to the extent such wastes are essentially the same as waste normally generated by households or were collected and disposed of with other municipal solid waste as part of normal municipal solid waste collection services, and regardless of when generated, would be considered conditionally exempt small quantity generator waste under section 3001(d). Examples of municipal solid waste include food and yard waste , paper, clothing, appliances, consumer product packaging, disposable diapers, office supplies, cosmetics, glass and metal food containers, elementary or secondary school science laboratory waste , and household hazardous waste . Such term shall include debris resulting from construction, remodeling, repair, or demolition of structures other than debris that is not otherwise commingled with other municipal solid waste and has been determined by the generator, to be contaminated. For purposes of determining whether any such debris is contaminated, the generator shall conduct representative sampling and analysis of such debris, the results of which shall be submitted to the affected local government for record keeping purposes only, unless not required by the affected local government. Any such debris that has been determined to be contaminated shall be disposed of in a landfill that meets, at a minimum, the requirements of this subtitle. The term does not include any of the following:

    (A) Any solid waste identified or listed as a hazardous waste under section 3001.

    (B) Any solid waste , including contaminated soil and debris, resulting from--(i) a response action taken under section 104 or 106 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. 9604 or 9606), (ii) a response action taken under a State law with authorities comparable to the authorities of section 104 or 106, or (iii) a corrective action taken under this Act.

    (C) Recyclable materials that have been separated, at the source of the waste , from waste otherwise destined for disposal or that have been managed separately from waste destined for disposal, including scrap rubber to be used as a fuel source.

    (D) Materials and products returned from a dispenser or distributor to the manufacturer or an agent of the manufacturer for credit, evaluation, and possible reuse.

    (E) Any solid waste that is--(i) generated by an industrial facility; and(ii) transported for the purpose of treatment, storage, or disposal to a facility or unit thereof that is owned or operated by the generator of the waste or located on property owned by the generator or a company with which the generator is affiliated or the capacity of which is contractually dedicated exclusively to a specific generator so long as the disposal area complies with local and State land use and zoning regulations applicable to the disposal site.

    (F) Any medical waste that is segregated from or not mixed with solid waste .

    (G) Sewage sludge and residuals from any sewage treatment plant, including any sewage treatment plant required to be constructed in the State of Massachusetts pursuant to any court order issued against the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

    (H) Combustion ash generated by resource recovery facilities or municipal incinerators, or waste from manufacturing or processing (including pollution control) operations not essentially the same as waste normally generated by households.