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Integrated Solid Waste Management EPA

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Solid Waste Management:
A Local Challenge With
Global Impacts

health

safety

social change

clean environment

2 Printed on paper that contains at least 50 percent postconsumer fiber.

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SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

BASURA, GARBAGE, GOMI, ORDURES, AFVAL, SPAZZATURA—
whatever people call it, solid waste is a problem that must be properly managed. While it is generally understood that proper waste management helps protect human health and the environment and preserve natural
resources, many do not realize that solid waste also impacts climate change. The manufacture, distribution,
and use of products—as well as the disposal of the resulting waste—all result in emissions of atmospheric gases called “greenhouse gases” that affect the Earth’s climate. When organic waste
decomposes in landfills and uncontrolled dumps, it produces methane, one of the
major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Waste generation
increases with population expansion and industrialization. Countries in
Asia, Latin America, and Africa account for nearly 40 percent of annual
methane emissions from landfills, which is equal to 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) or the amount of
air emissions from more than 102 million automobiles. You can
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, through proper
solid waste management (for a more detailed explanation of
the relationship between climate change and solid waste,
see the What is Integrated Solid Waste Management? fact
sheet).
Solid waste should be managed through a number of
activities—waste prevention, recycling, composting,
controlled burning, or landfilling. Using a combination
of these activities together in a way that best protects
your community and the local environment is referred
to as integrated solid waste management (ISWM). An
ISWM program can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effects of climate change. This folder
and its accompanying fact sheets are designed for government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and others
involved in planning and communicating the benefits of
ISWM programs. The fact sheets will introduce you to important issues you will need to address in planning a successful
ISWM program. These fact sheets also assist you in planning an
ISWM program by providing guidelines for recycling and composting,
waste collection and transport, and waste disposal (landfill...