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Chapter 2, Section 4:
Solid Waste Management

Solid waste management is the use of proven, effective tools to reduce the volume and toxicity of solid wastes while recycling and disposing of what remains in an environmentally friendly way. The highest priority is source reduction—minimizing what we buy that ends up being thrown away, like wasteful packaging. After reducing the supply of trash by avoiding purchases with wasteful content, we can recycle many of our throwaways, like metal, glass, plastics and paper. Composting uses non-meat table scraps, leaf and grass cuttings and other organic waste to produce a valuable soil amendment that is useful in gardens. Solid wastes that MUST go to a dump need to be carefully monitored in sanitary landfills. These solid waste strategies create many different kinds of environmental employment opportunities.

Source Reduction:
The best way to manage waste is to prevent its creation in the first place. For example, packaging can be reduced or eliminated, and products can be designed that can be taken apart and reused instead of trashed.

Recycling:
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans now recycle 27% of our wastes, and that amount is expected to grow by 1% per year. Recycling has also come to include the growing practice of composting, one of the most popular areas in waste management.

Combustion:
Combustion of wastes for energy production, also called waste-to-energy incineration or resource recovery, comes from the practice of burning wastes. This newer form of incineration now manages about 16% of America’s wastes.

Landfills:
Landfills are still the eventual end point for most solid wastes, handling 57% of our garbage. The nature of sanitary landfills is changing to comply with more rigorous regulations designed to protect the environment.

Employment Breakdown:
More than 250,000 positions nationwide
Private sector - 40%
Public sector - 50%
Nonprofit sector - 10%

Key Job Titles:
  • Chemist
  • Civil Engineer
  • Community Relations Specialist
  • Economist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Planner
  • Environmental Technician
  • Recycling Coordinator
  • Market Developer
  • Civil or Mechanical Engineers
  • Sanitary Landfill Manager
  • Transportation Coordinator
  • Compost System Manager

Salary:
Entry-level salaries range from $22,000 to over $40,000 annually. A 1997 salary survey of engineers, scientists, and managers in Environmental Protection magazine revealed average salaries across all sectors of $50,000 for people with six to ten years of experience. The director of a major metropolitan solid waste utility earns between $80,000 and $100,000 annually. There are also many hourly wage positions in the $10 to $12 range.

Resource:

		

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Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP)
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
PO Box 5768     Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5768     Phone: (928) 523-1275     Fax: (928) 523-1280
E-mail: eeop@nau.edu

Last updated: May 27, 2005