Solid Waste in History: Economics and Legislation


The intensive development of the environmental law and legislation since the 70s of the last century shows how important problems of preservation of the surrounding medium became. While in the 20th-century scientists, practitioners, and the public were anxious about the solution of questions concerning the protection of water and forest resources, protection of animals, reduction of the level of air pollution, and others, presently the range of threats changes. Of course, this does not mean that all the aforementioned problems are solved. However, the ways to address them have already been developed, and measures have been agreed upon, including legal ones. Today, issues of climate protection, waste, and dangerous substances management, the fight against ecological crime, and also the formulation of the environmental policy that meets the conditions of the globalizing world are recognized as the priority issues.

The policy of waste management takes a special place in the structure of ecological policy since products of waste and consumption can also hurt all components of a surrounding medium, i.e. water, forests, soil, air, flora, and fauna. They affect mineral resources and the purity of groundwater as well as environmental safety, especially in cities and other densely populated areas. Besides, the value of the policy of waste management is defined by a constant increase in the waste quantity and the cost of its collection, storage, processing, and disposal. For example, in the late seventies of the 20th century, 20 000 unauthorized dumps were revealed in the territory of the USA, 3200 of those were found in Denmark, and 4000 dumps - in the Netherlands (Worrell, & Vesilind, 2012).

In 1930, Municipal Solid Waste Management System (MSWM System) was organized as an institutional, municipally operated, and technology-focused service aimed at the collection and disposal of municipal waste. In the 20th century, the MSWM System was faced with the problem of municipal solid waste accumulation and disposal both in the local landfills and open dumps. Taking into account the fact that society was worried about the so-called “waste crisis” since the 1960s, the local North American governments had to remove local landfills and create new ones, which would correspond to the criteria of contaminants storage (Spiegelman & Sheehan, 2005).

Since the 1980s, a large number of investments were intended for waste reduction and recycling. However, since the mid-1990s, the amount of waste has been constantly growing. Besides, the concentration of toxic components in everyday goods is also increasing. Thus, most municipal recycling programs failed because a great variety of products could not be recycled (“History of waste”, n.d.).

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Unlike the historical methods, a whole hierarchy of complex regulations is created in modern municipal solid waste management. Because waste reduction is the most effective method of waste utilization, this strategy is placed first in this hierarchy. The reuse strategies, materials recycling and composting, and incineration approach are in the higher positions of this hierarchy. At the bottom of this list is the ultimate landfill which should be the final place for waste.

The government provides incentives for waste recycling, which include credit and tax privileges, and also accelerated depreciation of the fixed capital intended for recycling. The main tools of waste disposal regulation are limits and payments. The government authorizes waste burial, allocating special places for this purpose. The regulation of waste disposal involves the application of various technologies, subsidies, credit, and tax privileges (Vaughn, 2009).

As landfills are a relatively inexpensive means of waste disposal, they are widespread nowadays. This technique of waste treatment was developed in the 1930s due to the growing public concern. As a rule, a lot of municipal solid waste is left and requiring disposal even after recycling. Since the number of waste increases day by day, landfills have become increasingly common. The improved environmental practice and engineering design of landfill maintenance and construction have also increased the life and capacity of many already existing landfills (Ghosh & Hasan, n.d.).

A Sanitary landfill is a predesigned ditch that is constantly covered with a six-inch layer of soil making it sanitary. These layers of soil prevent birds, rodents, or insects from reaching the waste. Sanitary landfills are legally permitted and are licensed. Their impact on the environment and ecology is minimal.

Unlike sanitary landfills, open dumps are illegal. They are usually located outside towns and cities, where wastes are dumped regularly. Due to their illegality, open dumps are unregulated; thus, they may pollute the nearby waters, and the distribution of vermin can become a problem (Hassenzahl, Berg, & Raven, 2012).

The sanitary landfills feature several securing components. The bottom liner separates waste from the groundwater and underlying soil and prevents their contamination. Cells are constructed and used for waste disposal. Every sanitary landfill is equipped with a leachate collection system aimed at the collecting and withdrawal of the waste leachate to avert groundwater contamination. The stormwater drainage is a system designed and constructed to control water runoff while it is raining or storming. The process of waste bacteria break down is followed by gas production. The produced gas is removed from the landfill using a methane collection system. To isolate the waste from the outer environment, a cover is applied. The cover is usually made of the soil layers or the large panes made of tarpaulin-type material. Other types of covers are flame-retardant fiber materials or foam. Groundwater monitoring stations are designed for the direct access and monitoring of groundwater for the presence of leachate chemicals (Spooner, 2012).

The general construction of the sanitary landfills is aimed at the environment and groundwater protection from the waste leachate. However, the leachate collection system may not catch the contaminants sometimes. The leakage of any leachate may be determined by several factors, such as high water table, high concentration of leachate contaminants, highly permeable geologic strata, and high toxicity level of the contaminants (“Landfill leachate”, n.d.).

Mankind put a lot of effort into studying and developing different methods of solid municipal waste utilization. Today, there are effective ways of garbage disposal. One of the most widespread is garbage burial in sanitary landfills. Burial of waste can provide safe and economically efficient disposal of solid municipal waste. Successful disposal of solid municipal waste depends on adequate financing, relevant legislation, and governmental support.

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