CH. 13. Solid-Waste Management
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CH. 13. Solid-Waste Management. 13.1. Introduction. SOLID WASTE Definition Categories Examples Municipal solid waste (MSW).

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CH. 13. Solid-Waste Management

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CH. 13. Solid-Waste Management

13.1. Introduction


  • Definition

  • Categories

  • Examples

  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)

70 % of MSW (valuable material such as glass, metal, and paper) could be recycled, however, only one-third of it was recycled in 2010, the rest was either incinerated or landfilled.

In 2010, Americans generated 250 million tons of trash

Waste disposal increased

1,350-1,606 lb/person/year in 1980-2010

Amount of MSW generated by typical families (in one week) around the world

Japan, $317.25

Italy, $260.11

Chad, $1.23

Kuwait, $221.45

USA, $341.98

Mexico, $189.09

Ecuador, $31.55

USA, $159.18

If we are running out of space and contaminating our groundwater by burying our trash, and contaminating the air by burning our waste, What can we do?

Recycle paper, glass, and metal (pizza boxes are not recyclable!)

Compost organic waste at home

Consume less, 30% of our waste is composed of packaging!

Solid waste management in Ukraine


A useful handbook for reducing solid waste.

The objective of an Integrated Solid Waste Management is to avoid the use of landfill

and incineration resources as much as possible as means of waste disposal. Thus, what it

proposes is to reduce the amount of trash we generate by consuming as less as possible and reusing what we already own (or for instance visiting garage sales), and finding alternative programs such as recycling and composting. The final desired resource would be waste disposal such as incineration and landfill.

In the USA, the total amount of municipal solid waste generated increased from 88 million

of tons in 1960 (2.6 pounds/person/day) to 250 million of tons in 2010 (4.4 pounds/person/day), however you can observe in the chart above, that in 2005, the generation of waste per capita, and thus the total amount of waste generated per year, leveled off. This shows that we are doing well watching the amount of waste we generate, but there still so much work to be done.

Inappropriate management of solid waste includes:

Solid waste disposed in rivers reaches the ocean and finally concentrates along the beaches in Mumbai, India.

Industrial waste (used engine oil) in a ditch in Male’, Maldives contaminates the groundwater.



<10% in 1980

to 34% in 2010

Potential disease transmission in a local grocery and meat market beside disposed waste in Haiti.

A bicycle that recycles metal!

13.2.Solid waste characterization

Typical percentage that makes up municipal solid waste (MSW).

13.2.Solid waste characterization

Quantities of generated and recovered waste in 2010.

13.2.Solid waste characterization

  • Physico-chemical and biological characteristics.

  • Density

  • size distribution

  • Moisture content

  • Color,

  • Odor,

  • Shape,

  • Optical properties

  • Electric properties

  • Magnetic properties

13.2.Solid waste characterization

Physico-chemical and biological characteristics.

E. Coli contamination usually starts at slaughterhouses.

Research conducted by Novotny et al. (2004) shows species of bacteria present in fish that are sources of human infections. These organisms are generally found in fish markets, floors, and fish boxes, specially during the summer.

13.2.Solid waste characterization

13.2.Solid waste characterization

13.2.Solid waste characterization

  • 50% paints and paint products

  • 20% used motor oil

  • 20% solvents, pesticides and herbicides

  • 10% batteries, unidentified materials and other miscellaneous items, such as

  • old chemistry sets, photographic materials, and fiberglass epoxy.

13.3.Components of the solid-waste system

Materials recovery facility








Transfer station

Recycled materials



Construction and demolition


Municipal services


Storage is the immediate stage after generation, or before final disposal or recycle/reuse. Storage duration depends on the collection process, which varies from once to twice per week. There are many designs for storing waste. The table below summarizes the most common containers for solid waste storage.

Different categories of storage containers:


Municipal solid waste storage containers

Rubbish skip is used to transfer the waste to special vehicles or for door-to-door collection.

Dumpsters are large steel containers used to transfer the waste to large transportation trucks.

Solid waste is stored without safety precautions in many countries.


Storage of hazardous materials

There are various storage units such as containers, tanks, drip pads, waste piles, surface impoundments, or containmentbuildings designed to house chemicals, flammables, solvents, paint, explosives, and other hazardous materials. The storage of hazardous materials need to comply the regulatory requirements specified by RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act).

Storage of hazardous materials in buildings.

Federal regulations allow small quantity hazardous waste generators (100-1000kg) to store the waste for up to 270 days without permit.


Front-end loading vehicles are commonly used for commercial collection

Side- and rear-end loading vehicles are commonly used for residential collection


Collection of solid waste in developing countries is more inefficient. Most of the budget is spent in collection and yet, they are not able to collect all the generated waste. Collection varies from household level (called primary), where waste is collected from individuals using bicycles, handcarts, private trucks, horses, etc. as medium of transportation and then put into community collection containers. The secondary collection system is then performed by the city council using small mechanical vehicles, trucks, and tractors.

Solid waste management in Africa.


Collection of solid waste in developing countries


Collection of solid waste in developing countries


Collection of solid waste in developing countries


Street sweeping in developing countries


Biodegradable plastic containers are marketed as compostable, but they don’t completely degrade and may in fact contaminate the compost.



Composting systems perform best when the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is in the range of 20-40 (C:N 20:1 to 40:1), which means that carbon content is 20-40 times larger than nitrogen. Table 13.11 in your textbook shows nutrient content of various materials used in composting.

Learn how to compost correctly:


Materials recovery facility.


Tipping floor

In-feed conveyor


OCC screen

ONP screen

Glass breaker screen

Paper sorting

Commingle conveyor belt

Plastic sorting

Steel magnet

Optical sorter

Eddy current separator


Bale storage

Glass cleanup system

Glass bunker

Residue belt

Residue bunker

Outbound truck

Education center







Landfill decomposition pathways:

Initial adjustment phase: Microorganisms adjust to the landfill conditions.

Transition phase: Transformation from aerobic to anaerobic environment.

Acid formation phase: Volatile organic acids are formed during biodegradation of organic waste.

Fermentation phase: Generation of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfides, methane, and ammonia due to microbial reactions of organic acids.

Maturation phase: Biodegradation stops or develops at lower rate. Leachate production is lower as well.


Typical anatomy of a landfill





Incineration, also called waste-to-energy, is one of the most widely used methods to dispose combustible waste by using high temperatures (800-1050C) to convert waste into flash, flue gas, and heat. The process can be optimized by using waste with high energy content, low moisture, and low ash content.


Volume of waste is reduced (~80-85%) so landfills are avoided

Water content in waste can be used as steam to heat systems or generate electricity

Cost of transportation of municipal solid waste is reduced


High construction and operating costs.

Fly ash and generated particles need to be eliminated from the resultant emissions before releasing to the air by air pollution control equipment

Toxins such as dioxins, furans, mercury, volatile metals, nitrous oxides are also released during the combustion process and need to be eliminated before releasing to the air.


5. The resultant gases are clean and follow federal air quality regulations.

3. Steam formed inside the incinerator is recovered to fuel turbines to produce energy

4. Toxic compounds and particlesare captured to ensure good quality of the released air

2. Burning process. Temperatures range 800-1050C. Initial volume of the waste is reduced 80-85%

1. Municipal solid waste. Includes paper, textiles, rubber, leather, wood, etc.

6. Ashes are recovered and disposed in landfills

How many times can something be recycled?

How much energy does recycling save?

Recycling facts

How to identify hazardous waste

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