Solid Waste Composition




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 2006

2006 U.S. Total Waste Generation – 251.3 million tons

Composition of Waste Disposed (after recycling) in the U.S. in 2006

2006 U.S. Total Waste Disposal – 169.5 million tons

Composition of Recyling Stream in the U.S. in 2006

2006 U.S. Total Waste Recycled– 81.8 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 2006?

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

(millions of tons)

Weight Recovered

(millions of tons)


(% of Generation)

Paper and paperboard 85.3 44 51.60%
Glass 13.2 2.88 21.80%


14.2 5.08 35.70%


3.26 0.69 21.20%

Other nonferrous metals*

1.65 1.18 71.50%

Total metals

19.1 6.95 36.30%
Plastics 29.5 2.04 6.90%
Rubber and leather 6.54 0.87 13.30%
Textiles 11.8 1.81 15.30%
Wood 13.9 1.31 9.40%
Other materials 4.55 1.13 24.80%
Total materials in above categories 184 61 33.20%
Other wastes      

Food, other**

31.3 0.68 2.20%

Yard trimmings

32.4 20.1 62.00%

Misc. inorganic wastes

3.72 negligible negligible

Total other wastes

67.4 20.8 30.80%

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