New Publication on US Waste Streams

A new publication titled “National and Regional Waste Stream in the United States: Conformance and Disparity” was published in Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability in November 2021.

An illustration of the spatial distribution of current Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities along with the US population density plotted on a common map.

Accurate estimation of material classes – paper, food, plastic, yard, metal, and glass waste – present in the municipal solid waste stream is critical for efficient waste management. The generation estimates for these material classes (both composition and quantity) are estimated via two approaches, the material-flow-based estimates and site-specific estimates. In the United States, the U.S. EPA’s material flow-based predictions yield MSW generation estimates for the entire nation, whereas site-specific estimates yield MSW generation estimates on a regional scale, i.e., states and counties. In the past, several studies had indicated that the U.S. EPA’s material-flow-based predictions differ substantially from the aggregated tonnage of MSW managed by waste handling facilities in the United States. However, the material-class-specific factors that led to these discrepancies are not apparent. In this study, we uncover the basis of these discrepancies by comparing national MSW generation estimates with the site-specific MSW general estimates. Specifically, our analysis suggests that the material-flow-based estimates are accurate for food, plastic, and glass material classes. In contrast, we find that the material-flow-based predictions underestimate paper waste disposal by at least 15 million tons annually. Based on these insights, the material-flow-based MSW estimation framework can be refined to yield better MSW generation estimates. A thorough estimation of waste is the key to efficient waste management.

This is the second article from our group’s Ph.D. candidate Vikram Kumar. Congratulations Vikram!

The article can be accessed here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *