Waste hauling, handling, and disposal are significant sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The U.S. alone deposits over 145 million tons of waste into landfills every year according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Once waste disposal occurs in a landfill, the decomposition of organic materials releases additional GHG emissions in the form of methane, which has a 20-year Global Warming Potential that is 84 to 87 times that of carbon dioxide.

For most of the first half of the 20th century, the U.S. recovered approximately 75% of the waste generated for reuse. That impressive figure dropped to just 7.5% by the 1970s and became a driving issue in the 1980s. This drastic decrease in waste recovery and reuse spurred renewed emphasis on reducing, reusing and recycling materials within the waste stream and resulted in legislation and regulations to enforce such reductions. The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 established a framework for solid waste control; states play the lead role in implementing non-hazardous waste programs.

Accordingly, many states have adopted programs and mandates to reduce waste. Responding to mandates and programs, cities and counties have also created a variety of ordinances and programs to reduce waste and associated GHG emissions by implementing recycling programs, diverting food waste and organic materials to composting facilities, and initiating community outreach and education programs.

These actions are extremely important at a local and regional level as waste recovery can work to abate GHG emissions while avoiding mass deposits in landfills.

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