Solid Waste Technology

August 23, 1974

Report Outline
Problems Created by Throwaway Society
New Technologies of Resource Recovery
Proposals to Reduce Creation of Waste
Special Focus

Problems Created by Throwaway Society

Burgeoning Levels of Urban Refuse in America

The trash piles of the throwaway society are growing faster than ever, and American cities are crying for help to combat the solid waste threat. Most proposed solutions rely on new technology, even though it can be argued that technology is directly responsible for much of the refuse which now plagues the nation. New technologies of “resource recovery” are being widely promoted as the answer to America's solid waste problems—burning garbage and trash for energy in power plants, separating metal, paper and glass components for recycling, turning sewage and manure into feed, fuel or fertilizer, and salvaging old automobiles and tires for construction materials.

At the same time, others contend that “source reduction” is a preferable solution to the solid waste burden—cutting down on what is thrown away by banning non-returnable bottles and cans, eliminating over-packaging, improving the durability and reusability of consumer products, and building smaller automobiles. But some of these methods, too, will require new technologies. In the immediate future, both approaches no doubt will be necessary. However, the central question for the long run is whether the nation can go on producing and disposing of more and more goods every year or whether it must undertake a broad new policy of conserving raw materials and natural resources.

The effluence of American affluence is now a critical problem across the nation. Every man, woman and child in the country throws away three to four pounds of solid waste a day, on the average, or more than a thousand pounds a year. Yesterday's newspaper, last week's magazine, tonight's dinner table scraps, the weekend's grass clippings or leaf piles, and other paper, food or yard wastes make up the bulk of urban refuse by weight. But “no deposit, no return” soft drink bottles and beer cans, plastic wrappings, empty spray cans, worn-out appliances, old clothes, and an array of other items also find their way into the nation's trash piles.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Trash and Recycling
Mar. 27, 1998  The Economics of Recycling
Mar. 20, 1992  Garbage Crisis
Nov. 17, 1989  America Turns to Recycling
Sep. 11, 1987  Garbage Crisis
Aug. 23, 1974  Solid Waste Technology
Mar. 12, 1969  Waste Disposal: Coming Crisis
Recycling and Solid Waste
Science and Politics