Solid Waste Composition




Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)


Both RCRA-C and RCRA-D regulate only solid wastes (SW).

What is a solid waste? (flowchart)

RCRA-C regulates only HAZARDOUS solid wastes while RCRA-D regulates only non-hazardous solid wastes.

Municipal (non-hazardous) solid waste is effectively any solid waste that is not a hazardous solid waste so, it is important to know a little bit about hazardous waste.

Review: The USEPA's Hazardous Waste Page

Skim: EPA's Learn the Basics of Hazardous Waste Page

Skim: EPA's Hazardous Waste Generators Page

Skim: EPA's Hazardous Waste Transporters Page

Skim: EPA's Hazardous Waste Manifest System Page

Skim: EPA's Introduction to (Hazardous Waste) Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities Document

Review: Chapter III of RCRA Orientation Manual 2014 (EPA530-F-11-003 October 2014) (PDF Document)

Review: US EPA's Cradle-to-Grave Hazardous Waste Management Program Page


Hazardous wastes are

  1. Materials specifically LISTED by EPA
    • F-List, K-List, P-List, and U-List
  2. Material that meet hazardous waste physical properties CHARACTERISTICs
    • Toxicity, Reactivity, Ignitability, and Corrosivity
  3. Materials DECLARED hazardous by the generator

What types of materials are RCRA-D wastes (non-hazardous solid wastes)?

What is Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)?

What are the sources of RCRA subtitle-D Wastes?

What is the physical nature of RCRA-D wastes?


What is waste composition like in other Countries?

What is waste composition like in the U.S.?

Source Data: US EPA Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006

Composition of Waste Generated (before recycling) in the U.S. in 2014

2014 U.S. Total Waste Generation – 258.5 million tons

Composition of Waste Disposed (after recycling) in the U.S. in 2014

2014 U.S. Total Waste Disposal – 169.1 million tons

Composition of Recyling Stream in the U.S. in 2014

2014 U.S. Total Waste Recycled– 89.4 million tons

Think: Based on the data in the three pie-chart figures above, what was the overall recycling rate in the U.S. in 2014?

Think: The three pie chart figures above were created using the data presented below.  How was this done?

US EPA MSW Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006

Table 1. Generation and Recovery of Materials in MSW, 2006


Weight Generated


Weight Recovered

(millions of tons)


(% of Generation)

Paper and paperboard


44,400 64.7
11,480 2,990 26.0
17,690 5,840 33.0
3.530 700 19.8
Other nonferrous metals*
2,040 1,360 66.7
Total metals
23,260 7,900 34.0
33,250 3,170 9.5
Rubber and leather
8,210 1,440 17.5
16,220 2,620 16.2
16,120 2,570 15.9
Other materials
4,440 1,290 29.1
Total materials in above categories
181,590 66,380 36.6
Other wastes
Food, other**
38,400 1,940 5.1
Yard trimmings
34,500 21,080 61.1

Misc. inorganic wastes

3,970 negligible negligible

Total other wastes

76,870 23,020 29.9
258,460 89,400 34.6

Includes waste from residential, commercial, and institutional sources.

Details may not add to totals due to rounding.
Negligible = Less than 5,000 tons or 0.05 percent.
* Includes lead from lead-acid batteries.
** Includes recovery of other MSW organics for composting.

What is waste composition like in Georgia?

Composition of Waste Disposed in Georgia in 2004

2004 Georgia Total Waste Disposal – 15.8 million tons

Think:  How could the data in the USEPA Table on U.S. Waste Composition be used with the Georgia Disposed Waste Compostion Pie-Chart to predict the composition of the waste generated in Georgia?  What assumptions would be necessary?



Generated Waste = Disposed Waste + Recycled Waste + Diverted Waste



(Here is a solution to this problem)


Rework the above problem using the following information: 80% of the homes have food grinders in which they grind 40% of their food waste.  The overall recycling efficiency is 20% (not 11%). The composition of the disposed and recycled waste streams remains the same. Here is the answer.

Page last updated January 25, 2013 by  Dr. McCreanor