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Solid Waste

What Does Solid Waste Mean?

Solid waste refers to materials that are discarded or disposed.

Depending on where the waste is generated, it can be classified as municipal solid waste, industrial solid waste, or agricultural solid waste. Hazardous solid waste is also sometimes considered a separate category.

Safeopedia Explains Solid Waste

Solid waste is generated from residences, commercial activity, and in public spaces where it is managed by the municipality.

The major categories of solid waste are:

  • Residential waste generated in homes, such as food waste, discarded clothing items, and yard trimmings
  • Municipal waste generated from various public services, such branches trimmed by city employees, trash collected in garbage bins in public parks, and pieces of asphalt that are removed and discarded as part of street repairs
  • Commercial waste generated by office buildings and other workplaces, such as plastic wrap from shipments received, paper products, and sweepings
  • Industrial waste generated by plants and manufacturing operations, such as discarded metals, plastic trimmings, and empty canisters
  • Agricultural waste generated by farms, such as spoiled fruit, food processing waste, and manure

Solid Waste Isn't Necessarily Solid

While the term "solid waste" implies that all waste in this category is solid in its physical form, this is not the case. Official definitions of solid waste include liquids, semi-solids, and contained gases.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), solid waste is any material that is:

  • Abandoned (disposed of, incinerated, or burned)
  • Inherently waste-like (such as dioxin-containing waste, which is considered inherently waste-like due to the serious threat it poses to human health and the environment)
  • Discarded military munition (used or defective munitions become solid waste when they are discarded or rendered non-recyclable)
  • Recycled in certain ways

Some wastes are excluded from this category due to public policy, legal regulation, or the impracticality of regulating the waste. The types of waste that are excluded from the definition of solid waste as per §261.4 include:

  • Domestic sewage
  • Point source discharge
  • Irrigation return flow
  • Radioactive waste
  • Pulping liquors
  • Hazardous secondary materials from petroleum refining industry
  • Shredded circuit boards
  • Used cathode ray tubes

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