[Skip to Content]

System Overview

Total MSW Generation (by material), 2011 250 Million Tons (before recycling)1
Solid Waste in the United States Pie Chart

People living in the United States, in 2014, generated 258.5 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW), or 4.4 pounds per person per day. While people recycle more, they also generate 66% more MSW per capita today than they did in 1960.1 These MSW figures include common trash or garbage, excluding construction and demolition waste and hazardous waste.

In federal buildings, solid waste management is a system whereby there are inputs of materials through purchases, consumption of materials, and outputs of waste as by-products (example, cardboard packaging) and end products (example, discarded lamps). The Waste Management Hierarchy2 illustrates a basic framework for managing materials to reduce waste, from most sustainably preferable at the top to least sustainably preferable at the bottom.

1U.S. EPA, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2014 Facts and Figures2U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy Pyramid.

  • Reducing the amount of waste that is generated is at the top of the list. Individuals can choose to reduce the amount of waste that they generate. Organizations that provide goods and services, can reduce waste through changes in the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products, including packaging. Source reduction is at the top of the hierarchy, in part, because the Earth has limited and finite natural resources to meet human and ecosystem needs.
  • Reusing, Repairing, and Repurposing products and materials prevents or delays the entry of those items into the waste collection and disposal system.
  • Recycling is the series of activities—including collection, separation, and processing—by which products or materials are recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials for the manufacture of new products (other than fuel for producing heat or power by combustion). Composting is the recycling of organic wastes, like food, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic materials. Composting provides several environmental and economic benefits, particularly for agriculture and landscaping. The world population in 2013 is 7.1 billion, and it is expected to reach 8.9 billion by 2050. To meet materials demand, innovative solutions are needed for resource recovery and the use of waste for material in the manufacturing process.
  • Recovery of Energy, or Waste to Energy (WTE), is the conversion of waste materials into usable heat, electricity, and fuel. Ash or metals, generated after the combustion process, can be recovered for commercial use or sent to a landfill. WTE facilities generate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.
  • Treatment & Disposal (landfill or incineration without energy recovery), is the least environmentally preferable waste management option because there is no beneficial use of the material to offset virgin material extraction. Landfills also generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Tilt device for optimal viewing

Solid Waste Components

  • Facility-Wide
  • Loading Dock Exterior
  • Loading Dock Interior
  • Break Pantry
  • Support Area