Chapter 44: Municipal solid waste 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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