Table of Contents

A Handbook of Industrial Ecology

A Handbook of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Robert U. Ayres and Leslie W. Ayres

Industrial ecology is coming of age and this superb book brings together leading scholars to present a state-of-the-art overviews of the subject. Each part of the book comprehensively covers the following issues in a systematic style: the goals and achievements of industrial ecology and the history of the field; methodology, covering the main approaches to analysis and assessment; economics and industrial ecology; industrial ecology at the national/regional level; industrial ecology at the sectoral/materials level; and applications and policy implications.

Chapter 44: Municipal solid waste management

Clinton J. Andrews

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, economics and finance, industrial economics, environment, ecological economics, environmental management


Clinton J. Andrews People generate garbage as they live their lives, as they produce and consume. In the process of disposing of this garbage they in turn generate many headlines, signs of unresolved controversies. Waste disposal has been a concern for as long as there have been human settlements, and current debates have ancient origins. This chapter examines municipal solid waste (MSW) management from the industrial ecology and political economy perspectives. It excludes industrial wastes (see Chapter 32) and constructionrelated wastes, and focuses primarily on household and small commercial waste streams. Since the field of industrial ecology is motivated in part by dissatisfaction with current waste management practices, this chapter also considers implementation issues affecting industrial ecology. Solid waste management involves both public and private actors, and cultural, political and economic judgments. Over historical time the definition of trash has been a moving target. Current management practices are best understood in historical and politico-economic contexts. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Archaeologists have identified persistent themes in MSW management. For example, Bronze Age Trojans periodically became so offended by household waste that they covered it with clay; ancient Mesopotamian cities were invariably located upwind of remote garbage dumps; in Old Testament Jerusalem, people incinerated their garbage in the nearby valley of Gehenna (later a synonym for ‘hell’); and the wealthy Classic Maya generated more reusable and recyclable trash than their poor Late Post-Classic descendants (Rathje and Murphy 1992). For most of recorded history, household wastes not left on the floor...

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