Municipal solid waste consists of everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food waste, newspapers, appliances, and batteries. Other material disposed of in landfills but not generally considered municipal solid waste includes construction and demolition materials, municipal wastewater treatment sludges, and non-hazardous industrial wastes.
In 2017 the United States generated 267.8 million tons, or 4.51 pounds per person of municipal solid waste. That’s an increase of 77 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of the municipal solid waste generated, municipal waste recycling programs took in about 35 percent was recycled (67 million tons) or composted (27 million tons). This waste was composed of paper (25 percent); food waste (15.2 percent); yard trimmings (13.1 percent); wood (6.7 percent); rubber, leather and textiles (9.7 percent); plastics (13.2 percent); metals (9.4 percent); other (3.5 percent); and glass (4.2 percent).
In Canada, from 2002 to 2016, the total amount of solid waste collected in Canada increased by 11 percent to 3.5 million tons. The amount of waste disposed in landfills or incinerated increased by 0.9 million tons (or 4 percent) to reach 24.9 million tons in 2016, according to the Canadian government. An estimated 64 percent of the waste disposed in landfills each year is potentially degradable, and capable of producing methane, a greenhouse gas. Food, paper and wood are the three largest degradable materials sent to landfill. Non-degradable waste makes up 36 percent of the waste disposed in landfills, primarily made up of plastics and building materials.
In 2016, Canadians generated about 34 million tons of MSW. Of this amount, 9 million tons (27 percent) was diverted through material recovery facilities or centralized organics processing operations (i.e., recycling and composting), and 25 million tons (73 percent) was sent for disposal in landfills, to incineration facilities, for thermal treatment (e.g. energy from waste, gasification) or for residual waste processing (e.g. conversion to an alternative fuel source), according to the Canadian government.
Food waste made up approximately 23 percent of all of the residual MSW disposed in 2016. Just under 6 million tons of both edible and inedible food waste was disposed. Yard and garden waste made up a small percentage of waste from all three sectors making up 4 percent of total residual MSW.