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A Comparative Analysis of American and Chinese Waste Management Methods Report

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2019


Waste management responsibility of any given country lies on hands of both private and public sectors. This is a major responsibility that can not be left under the care of one sector. There are several methods applicable in the developed nations, but land fill seems to be the most preferred method by most of the nations.

For instance, in the United States, land fill is the most used method, though it has become challenging to expand the sites (EPA, 2009). The introduction of new land fill sites has also become a problem, though it is considered better than incineration. In most of the developed nations, incineration is used as only the last option of waste management.

The main reason as to why it is disregarded, it is because of air pollution and facilitating global warming more than any other system. Recycling is another method of disposing off waste, and mostly preferred as it is clean. In addition, the use of recycling reduces the chances of a country to make use of land fill and incineration and promotes the usability of waste materials again and again (Nakamura, 2007).

Energy recovery methods are not always applicable as they also contribute greatly to air pollution. This is mostly because the waste materials lack calorific content; hence the energy produced is relatively low compared to the large amount of waste materials burned. The energy involved in burning such waste materials is also too much.

Globally, the systems of waste management take responsibility of only 3-5% of air pollution worldwide . However, such a small percentage can not disqualify the nation’s efforts of waste management.

The most important aspect of decreasing pollution is through coming up with policies such as civic, environmental, education. The implementation of such policies and reinforcement of laws would solve much of these challenges. The risky waste products should always be controlled from causing harm to the environment.

This as well could be achieved through preventing some waste disposal activities and introduction of waste neutralizing treatment equipments. The waste management sector can achieve its goals, through collaboration with environmental institutions, implementation of environmental policies, and introduction of new and advanced waste management technology.

Waste Management in the United States

It is difficult to obtain the percentage of waste management methods applicable in United States. According to most of the research done, the data of waste management methods found in MSWs are revealed. According to the latest information concerning the United States waste management; it is evident that 63.5 % of municipal solid wastes are thrown into municipal solid waste landfills.

However, 5.1% are thrown into construction and devastated landfill site. A percentage of 20.9 of the solid waste products are recycled. A percentage of 4.8 are decomposable and are thrown into compost pits, while 5.8% of the wastes are incinerated (Leonard, 2007).

According to the geographical make up of United States, the availability of terrains creates good sites for landfills. In contrary, some states like New York find it difficult to have a landfill site, so they end up forcing them to be part of waste facilities and landfill sites of other sites. It has become a great challenge in United States, to find some suitable spaces that can be converted into landfill sites.

The greatly affected part is the northeastern parts since such lands are very rare in that section. The major reason behind limitation of landfill sites is due to avoid the violation of NIMBY policy, which strictly prevents the dumping of wastes in certain states, due to environmental health reasons.

US Municpal solid waste: What happens to IT.

The graph is obtained from: ()

The figure above gives evidence that, the most preferred method of waste management is through the use of landfill sites since 1960 to 2005 (Heidi, 2006). Recycling waste products and decomposing is another method that is increasingly preferred due to the various advantages associated with them.

Recycling as discussed above is prolonging the usage of some waste products, and cutting costs of purchasing these materials. The use or recycling is also reducing the chances of using other methods like incineration, due to their adverse effects to the environment.

Solid waste digest has provided data that reveal that, the cost of managing landfill sites is relatively cheaper as compared to incineration. On an average basis, the waste tipping fee was approximately $40 per ton in year 2001(Heidi, 2006). This price is not fixed as it depends with a location.

For instance, in the northeast part of the nation, the fee is approximately $60 per ton. No matter what region of the United Nations land, the fee for incineration is much higher than that of landfill sites. According to the data provided by solid waste digest, the fee for incineration is always higher by $20 per ton than the fee on landfill dumping.

Just like in any other nation, waste products in United States are categorized into two types, such as hazardous and non-hazardous. Moreover, the dire need for leach ate treatment equipments and liners to handle hazardous waste; it becomes more costly to handle hazardous wastes than non-hazardous wastes (Heidi, 2006).

There is the lack of clear implementation of a policy to guide the disposal of hazardous wastes; hence these wastes are dumped at the borderline of United States and Mexico. The two states dump their hazardous wastes along their border line, and this is a clear show of lacking a suitable policy, to aid such disposals. The act of disposing such risky waste products at borderline may not be necessarily the best way.

Most of organization and individuals are looking forward to see the reaction of environmental bodies like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the issue. The environmental cooperation of NAFTA concentrates in ensuring that such risky wastes are treated to reduce their negative impacts to the environment.

There are some instances that Mexico has portrayed of lacking to comply with the requirements of NAFTA, like lacking pollutant Release and Transfer Registry. This is an important body of environmental auditing, which takes care of solving the environmental problems, as well as conducting public-environmental education.

The accumulation of risky waste products between the United States and Mexico border increases an industrialization advances in both nations. The data dated back to 1997, shows that the hazardous waste at the border was approximately 20million tons.

The main reason behind handling hazardous waste carefully is because they are corrosive, toxic, and reactive compared to non-hazardous waste materials. There is a high likelihood for hazardous material to cause dangers to public health and environment.

Moreover, non-hazardous waste is managed by private waste management organizations, and also by some local government units. In United States, 52.6% of waste management equipments are owned by private sectors, while the other 47.5% is by the public bodies.

It is estimated that approximately 376.9 million tons of municipal solid waste is handled by private sectors, while the remaining part of about 30.8% is taken care of by the government equipments. Although private sectors play a great role in waste management, the largest waste management company that earns much revenue in U.S is Waste Management, Inc. (WM).

This company managed to make revenues worth $13.07 billion in 2005 being seconded by Allied Waste Industries Inc, which also managed revenue worth $5.37 billion. Despite the efforts of both the private and public sectors of managing waste products, there are still a number of environmental problems. Most of these problems may have arisen from lack of compliance to the existing waste management policies in the area.

For instance, in U.S there is availability of small scale generators that produce both hazardous and non-hazardous waste products in various regions. Those households that may be using such facilities, may be warned from subscribing to waste management companies, and should never seek for permission from RCRA for the management of risky waste products.

As a result, such excuses in the American waste management law end up giving permission to people to dump hazardous waste into non-hazardous waste land fill sites. This may be dangerous because the non-hazardous landfill sites do not have leach ate treatment equipments and protective processing mechanisms.

Without proper care on such disposals, dangerous chemicals may mix with water supply systems, and impose adverse effects to people’s health.

The figure below shows the percentages of various solid waste products that were generated in 2009. Paper and paperboard proofs to be the largest part of solid waste products, which were generated in 2009. This is equivalent to 28.2% of the total waste product generated. This was a result of much paper work done in various places in United States, as well as various industries to produce the same.

The total municipal solid waste that was generated in 2009 was 243 million tons before recycling. Food scrap waste products follow with approximately 14.1%, yard trimmings with 13.7 % of the total waste products. Plastics waste amounted to 12.3%, metals waste was approximately 8.6%, the total amount of rubber, leather, and textiles were 6.5%, 4.8% and 3.5% respectively.

Total MSW Generation.

The chart is obtained from: ()

Analysis of waste management in china

For the last two decades, china has experienced an increased growth in waste management systems. China has overtaken the United States in waste generation, due to the increased industrialization and urban population. According to the figures that were collected in 2004, it is evident that urban areas alone in china generate approximately 1.5 billion tons per year, which is equal to 1000grams per capita daily.

The increasing amount of waste in china has become uncontrollable by china’s waste management systems. The organizations responsible in collecting these waste materials fail due to lack of necessary infrastructures, people who are expert in effective collection, and more so lack of treatment and operating equipments.

The issues of waste management in china create more problems in the nation and give opportunities to foreigners. According to the latest information concerning waste management in china, it is evident that only 70 percent of municipal solid waste that is collected and only 60percent receive treatment before disposal.

The domestic firms that are found under this industry fail to execute their duties effectively, due to lack of enough finances and technical expertise. There are upcoming informal-private players that are majoring in some sectors including this. Another reason behind this industry performing to its level best is due to lack of incentive for private investments.

In the past five years, the government made extra efforts of increasing the amounts of investment in this industry of up to 9.6 billion USD. The nation had high hopes of utilizing this amount for the best of waste management. There are some other aspects that still need to be improved for waste management system to be effective such as further investments, and developing infrastructure for better transport and communication.

Most of firms that are found in the industry are small or medium sized, and lack the financial capability to handle the challenges of waste management in the country; hence the whole industry is limited to achieve the growth. In urban areas, waste management is done in two phases such as primary and secondary.

During the initial phase, which is referred to as primary phase, the main duty here s is to go round all over collecting the waste products, and then a place to dump is located.

During the secondary phase, which is the second part of waste management, the waste products are prepared ready for treatment to make them environmental friendly. Although the second stage requires the efforts of the government, the initials stage requires more improvement for the whole system to be effective.

The primary phase of waste management remains as informal activity as the job is relied on street passerby to sort the useful materials from the rest. In most of the cases, the street foragers are the ones found trying to sort out the recyclables from the rest of waste management. Most of such waste products end up in landfills, due to poor management in sorting out the recyclables.

China’s landfill sites are not managed properly, and that is why it has substandard rules and practices. The most preferred method of waste management in china is landfill, but it is evident that it might not serve them for a longer period, due to scarcity of such lands. It has been estimated that, in the next five years, the landfill method of waste management may be unmanageable in china, due to lack of such sites.

In china, there is an opportunity for foreigners to invest in waste management systems. There is a high probability for foreign investors to win contracts of handling waste products in china (Ben, 2004). The major challenge is to providing treatment technologies to all of the hazardous waste dumped. If there can be an organization that can win the tender, it can utilize the opportunity of offering such services.

Any foreign waste management company that is looking forward to expand should try the available opportunities in china. It is estimated that by 2013, the recycling rate of waste materials in china would have grown by 9.1% reaching the amount of 244.8 million tons.

No matter how much the government and other private sectors in china, dedicate to waste management, it seems hard for this government to handle the waste. Recycling and landfill sites are doing well in china, but their sustainability are limited, especially for landfill sites.


In conclusion, any working nation must have some waste products to dispose off. The remaining challenge is on which way a nation would handle these waste products. In both develop nations; it was evident that landfill sites and recycling are the commonly used methods, although they are also faced by some challenges.

The recycling is trying to pick and handle much of the waste products, due to the scarcity of landfill sites in United States. The same case applies to china, due to lack of landfill sites, it is seen that only a foreign body would come for their rescue. In both nations, there are increased generation of waste products and modification of the clearing systems are, therefore, required.

Every nation is made attractive through eradication of all waste products. In addition, it is risky for any nation to fail in handling waste products. More and more methods of handling waste products should be invented in both developing and developed nations. Through this, nations would be sure of good health for their citizens.


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