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Municipal Solid Wastes

Municipal solid waste comes from a wide range of sources in cities and suburban areas, including residences, businesses, educational and government institutions, industries, and construction sites. Municipal solid waste is typically composed of a wide range of materials, including food wastes, paper products, plastics, metals, glass, demolition debris, and household hazardous wastes (the latter assumes that hazardous wastes from industries, hospitals, laboratories, and other institutions are disposed as a separate waste stream).

Depending on the municipality, some of this solid waste may be recycled, reused, or composted. More typically, however, most of the wastes are disposed in some central facility, generally some sort of sanitary landfill. These are regulated, engineered disposal sites to which the wastes are hauled, dumped on land, compacted, and covered with earth. The basin of a modern sanitary landfill is generally lined with an impermeable material, such as heavy plastic or clay. This allows the collection of water that has percolated through the wastes, so it can be treated to reduce the concentrations of pollutants to acceptable levels, prior to discharge to the environment.

However, in many places large, sanitary landfills are no longer considered a preferable option for the disposal of general solid wastes. In some cases, this is because land is locally scarce for the development of a large landfill. More usually, however, local opposition to these facilities is the constraining factor, because people living in the vicinity of operating or proposed disposal sites object to these facilities. These people may be variously worried about odors, local pollution, truck traffic, poor aesthetics, effects on property values, or other problems potentially associated with large, solid-waste disposal sites.

Everyone, including these people, recognizes that municipalities need large facilities for the disposal of solid wastes. However, no one wants to have such a facility located in their particular neighborhood. This popularly held view about solid waste disposal sites, and about other large, industrial facilities, is known as the "not in my back yard" or NIMBY syndrome, and sometimes as the "locally unacceptable land use" or LULU syndrome.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Hydrazones to IncompatibilityIncineration - Municipal Solid Wastes, Municipal Incinerators, Emissions Of Pollutants, Specialized Incinerators, The Role Of Incinerators