Any form of waste that is less than 70 per cent water is classified as solid waste. Types of solid waste include hazardous, municipal (household and commercial) waste, industrial and special waste. In 2008, the EPA reported that Americans created 250 million tons of solid waste every day yet only recycled or composted 83 million tons, leaving 167 million tons of solid waste to be disposed of via state-organised solid waste disposal programs.
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Landfills receive nearly 90 per cent of household and commercial waste, demolition and construction debris, non-hazardous sewage sludge and industrial sludge. The EPA has banned the disposal of household paints, cleaners and chemicals, batteries, motor oil and pesticides into landfills. Landfills may receive items such as refrigerators and air-conditioners but are under strict regulations regarding proper treatment and disposal of these "white goods." The EPA also has regulations regarding the set-up, operation and closure of landfill facilities. Landfills must be located in environmentally sound locations, away from faults, wetlands and agriculture growing plains. A landfill must sit on top of a flexible membrane and 2 feet of compacted, nonpermeable clay along the bottom and sides of the location to protect underlying soil. Landfills are under strict regulation to remove and treat or dispose of leachate seeping from the solid waste. Regular testing of local water sources ensure the landfill is operating correctly and regular covering of compacted solid wastes with soil helps reduce insects, rodents, odour, litter and germs.
Another means of solid waste disposal is through combustion or incineration, which burns at roughly 750 degrees and separates solid waste into gaseous, liquid and solid states. There are two basic types of combustion operations: mass-burning facilities which dump all the municipal waste into an incinerator and burn it and RDF or refuse-derived fuel facilities which make up more than one-fifth of the combustion operations and sort through the refuse to recover recyclable materials before incinerating the solid waste. Properly equipped combustion facilities reduce waste volume by 90 per cent, convert water into steam energy and generate electricity for self-sustaining energy and destroys chemical compounds and harmful bacteria. Combustion facilities use scrubbers, which use a spray to neutralise harmful gases, and filters to remove tiny ash particles before they enter the atmosphere.
Transfer stations act as a temporary storage for municipal solid waste before being transported to landfills or combustion incinerating facilities. These locations are set up for the drop-off of waste after collection through collection sites and rural collection vehicles. The storing of solid waste at these stations allow communities to save money by transporting one large load instead of multiple smaller loads to the landfills and reduces the number of trucks on the road. The EPA governs location and operations of transfer stations as well as landfill and combustion facilities.
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- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: What Types of Waste May Be Accepted by a Municipal Solid Waste Facility?
- U.S.Environmental Protection Agency: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008
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- New Jersey Department of Envrionmental Protection: Solid Waste Types
- U.S.Environmental Protection Agency: astes - Non-Hazardous Waste - Municipal Solid Waste