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MSW Report Improvements and Enhancement Updates

Other Measurement Activities

Historical Data Tables


MSW Report Improvements and Enhancement Updates

Background

EPA's Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: Facts and Figures" also called EPA's MSW Characterization Report provides a consistent view of MSW in the US over time by reporting on the recycling, composting and generation of MSW. The report has been issued since the early 1990s, with data going back to 1960. A full report is issued every other year and a summary report is issued each year. This report is based on a materials flow model and economic data and is based on numerous data sources, from industry, state and Federal government, and the media. It provides national generation, recycling, composting, combustion, and landfill tonnage and percentage data by material and product categories. It does not provide state or regional data. Increasing concern about the report's scope, transparency, data sources and assumptions required a new look into how to improve data collection and reporting systems, measurement indicators and methodologies used to collect, analyze and present information on waste management and the flow of materials throughout their life cycle. Improvements to data collection and measurement along with other enhancements to the existing report create opportunities for job creation and environmental and social improvement through improved market assessment, product design, planning and policy development and investment decisions. These improvements will help facilitate the transition from waste management to sustainable materials management and will involve a broad range of stakeholders from government, industry, non-government organizations, institutions and individuals.

EPA opened a Federal Register Notice EPA-HQ-RCRA-2011-0178 on August 2, 2011 soliciting stakeholder input regarding the efficacy and scope of the MSW Characterization Report called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States as part of a broader discussion about sustainable materials management measurement and reporting needs nationally. On August 30, 2011, the comment period was extended to September 30, 2011. There were 159 submittals from diverse stakeholders of 137 individuals and organizations. The most comments received regarded expanding the scope of EPA measurement to include construction and demolition materials and the definition of zero waste. The initial notice and comments can be reviewed on the regulations.gov website.

The original intent of the report to characterize the United States MSW continues to be met and a broad range of stakeholders noted the importance of maintaining the existing methodology to provide historical trend information to evaluate SMM impacts. Many comments on improving and expanding the report were provided with the easiest improvements started to be implemented in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 reports. However significant improvements involve major investments and methodological changes and the demand for expansions and data that are more empirical continues to grow.

The overwhelming majority of commenters found EPA's current report to be helpful as an authoritative source, particularly in combination with other data and information sources, for advancing materials/waste management, sustainability or business program investments and policies. Commenters recommended expanding the scope of the report to include additional types of data and improving the report's accessibility. They also suggested developing standardized definitions to improve clarity. Numerous commenters viewed the report's historical trend analysis data of over 50 years as valuable and recommended that EPA continue to report this data. Commenters used the report as a tool to plan solid waste management and sustainability programs; develop greenhouse gas, environmental footprint, and sustainability reports; analyze materials and commodities markets; inform policy and investment decisions; educate the public and stakeholders; create new product and packaging designs; and develop standards and labeling systems.

EPA has undertaken numerous efforts and made major investments since the docket filing to expand, improve and enhance the existing MSW Characterization Report while investigating approaches to find appropriate data collection and measurement management strategies to facilitate local, state, regional and national measurement in the realm of waste and material management.

2010 MSW Characterization Report Improvements

2011 MSW Characterization Report Improvements

2012 MSW Characterization Report Improvements

Scoping Studies and Research Memos (completed or in progress)

  1. Construction and Demolition (C&D) Methodology Scoping Study
  2. Building Reuse Centers Scoping Memo
  3. Food Waste Loss and Donation Methodology Scoping Study: Estimating food scrap based upon population
  4. Industrial Food Waste Scoping Study for five sectors
  5. Investigated breaking out residential and commercial sectors (last done in 1990s)
  6. MSW Economics Indicators Memo
  7. Recovered Materials Processing Scoping Study for some materials
  8. Time Lag and composition of Durable Goods Methodology
  9. Electronics Methodology Update
  10. Methodology Update: Scoping analysis regarding Current Industrial Reports
  11. Estimating national source reduction in the United States
  12. Additional data regarding measurement of food waste
    • Estimate how much food waste is going to animal feed in the United States. Determine if the amount of food waste going to animal feed has gone up or down in the last 10 years based on factors such as the economy or droughts. Estimate how much fats, oils, and grease are generated, recycled, and disposed in US.
  13. Additional economic analysis regarding Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE)
  14. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures - A Methodology Document (PDF) (49 pp, 462 Kb)

EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) in 2013 established a construction and demolition wastes measurement methodologies scoping study to provide two alternative methodologies crafted to use the data measured on the ground. These methodologies could provide more data accuracy and create a replicable and verifiable process to repeatedly produce national measurements.

Other Measurement Activities

State Measurement Efforts

2012 Historical (summary) Data Tables

 


Contact Us: ORCRMeasurement@epa.gov

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