People generate garbage as they live their lives, as they produce and consume. In the process of disposing of this garbage they in turn generate many headlines, signs of unresolved controversies. Waste disposal has been a concern for as long as there have been human settlements, and current debates have ancient origins. This chapter examines municipal solid waste (MSW) management from the industrial ecology and political economy perspectives. It excludes industrial wastes (see Chapter 32) and construction-related wastes, and focuses primarily on household and small commercial waste streams. Since the field of industrial ecology is motivated in part by dissatisfaction with current waste management practices, this chapter also considers implementation issues affecting industrial ecology.
Solid waste management involves both public and private actors, and cultural, political and economic judgments. Over historical time the definition of trash has been a moving target. Current management practices are best understood in historical and politico-economic contexts.
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