» industrial waste

Thursday, 28 March A.D. 2013 @ 8:51 PM

Like many Americans, I had come to consider the hundreds of millions of tons of municipal solid waste produced annually as an indicator the “the throwaway society.” Then, ten years into my study of solid waste, I stumbled on a waste statistic quietly put out by the EPA in a document called Guide for Industrial Waste Management (U.S. EPA 1999). This technical manual, meant to provide tips to factory managers for handling waste at their plants, noted, without further comment, that manufacturing industries were generating some 7.6 billions tons a year of solid waste. Some digging on my part uncovered an older, unpublished report that was the source of this estimate as well as two follow-up government documents that cited other industrial, mining, extractive, and agricultural operations as bringing the total industrial waste tonnage generated in the United States up to around 12 billion tons (U.S. EPA 1987, 1988; OTA 1992). These amounts were an order of magnitude greater than the tonnage of municipal solid waste that every book, volunteer effort, government program, or household conversation about trash and its problems seemed to focus on. Yet very little had been published about this far larger quantity.

—from Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States by Samantha McBride