Waste Management: A Reference Handbook

Waste Management: A Reference Handbook

Waste Management: A Reference Handbook

Waste Management: A Reference Handbook

Synopsis

An authoritative review of issues in waste management both in the United States and globally that measures the scope of the problem and examines the latest scientific and policy initiatives for addressing it.

Excerpt

Since 1977, when the first plastic bags were introduced to the grocery industry as an alternative to paper sacks, consumers have had a choice about the type of waste they produce. After more than three decades of debate over which type of shopping bag is better for the environment, people are still not sure which one to choose. The more the population grows, the more goods that are consumed, and packaging, whether paper or plastic, becomes an important part of the waste stream—usually referred to as garbage or trash.

Waste, and how we manage it, typically ends up toward the bottom of the environmental policy agenda. Problems like air quality, global climate change, and energy are often the focus of policy makers’ attention, with issues related to waste either ignored or deferred. But waste is actually an integral part of the overall environmental management picture. Increased consumer consumption of goods means more natural resources, such as forest products and fossil fuels, are used for packaging. More waste, in turn, means that more space is used for landfills or more particulate matter is emitted by incinerators. As the demand for electricity increases, nuclear power plants expand, creating more high-level radioactive waste. The paper versus plastic debate is used as a theme throughout the eight chapters of this book that follow. The controversy illustrates the shifting nature of the debate as technology advances, environmental consciousness is raised, population and consumption increase, and policies are created to mandate how waste is managed both in the United States and on a global level.

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