waste management systems with resulting economic and environmental costs.
Recognizing this situation, Congress amended the Solid Waste Disposal
Act in 1970 to include among other things an investigation of "changes in
current product characteristics and production and packaging practices
which would reduce the amount of waste."^  This concept has become known
as waste  reduction.
     Waste  deduction (sometimes referred to as source reduction) is
defined as the reduction in the generation of solid waste brought
about through the redesign of products or through the reduction in the
consumption of products or materials.  Waste prevention is probably
a more descriptive term for this subject.  Waste reduction differs
from recycling and resource recovery which are activities oriented
towards extraction and utilization of materials from solid waste and the
conversion of waste into a usable product.  Waste reduction simply means
producing less waste in the first place.
     Some examples may be helpful.  Waste reduction includes:
     a.  the use of a product with a longer lifetime, such as a 40,000-
         mile automobile tire rather than a 25,000-mile tire,
     b.  the use of reusable products (beverage containers, plates
         and cups, utensils, napkins, linens, diapers, ...etc.) rather
         than so-called "disposable" products designed for single use,
     c.  reducing the quantity of material used in a product (e.g. smaller
         and lighter automobiles).
Each of these activities results in a reduction in the quantity of
waste generated when the product is discarded.


      The first question that will  be explored  is  whether  there  really
 is. a need for waste reduction or whether  the solution  to  our waste
disposal  problems lies  solely  in the  construction of large scale plants
to recover materials and convert waste to energy.  This is a concept
that  is  receiving considerable attention today.  Second,  the basic
rationale for governmental programs in waste reduction will be explained.
Finally,  some of the different legislative measures that  have been suggested
to reduce waste generation will be reviewed.
     Turning to the first issue, it helps to place this subject in some
quantitative perspective.
     In 1973, 144 million tons of residential  and commercial  solid wastes
were discarded in the United States.    Approximately 9 million tons of
these wastes were recycled (mainly paper and paperboard) leaving 135
million tons to be disposed of in dumps, sanitary landfills and incinerators.
     Our projections indicate that by 1985 waste discards  will  grow to
over 200 million tons annually.  However,  resource recovery is also
expected to grow.   Approximately 20 million tons of waste  are projected
to be recovered in municipal  resource recovery  facilities  designed
primarily to convert the combustible waste fraction into energy.  Paper
and paperboard recycling is also projected to  increase to  15 million tons
resulting in a total recovery level of 35 million tons.  This would
leave approximately 165 million tons to be disposed of.
     In other words, solid waste disposal  requirements are projected to
increase from 135 million tons in 1973 to 165 million tons in 1985 or
an increase of 22 percent.

     Now let's consider a more rapid rate of resource recovery plant
installation such as a doubling the projected level  of such plants by
1985.  This would mean the construction of 25 to 50  additional plants
by that time.  Such a rate of resource recovery plant implementation
would still leave over 70^ percent of the waste stream unrecovered by
1985--or 145 million tons destined for disposal.  In other words even with a
very optimistic rate of resource recovery plant construction, waste
disposal requirements would still increase between 1973 and 1985.  Resource
recovery would not even keep pace with the growth in the waste stream.
This fact in itself calls for investigation of other alternatives.
     Any meaningful attempt to address the waste disposal requirements
of our Nation must move beyond to the construction of energy recovery
facilities to include:
     a.  programs to reduce the generation of waste in the first place,
     b.  programs to increase the recovery and reuse of paper and other
     Turning now to the second issue; to clarify the rationale and
basis for governmental efforts in waste reduction.  First, it is important
to note that product design and consumption trends dŁ affect waste generation.
The  trend towards the use of disposable products increases the amount
of solid waste generated.  For example, on a per capita basis, packaging
material consumption and waste generation increased by over 40 percent
between 1958 and 1971.  The point is  simply that solid wastes are
primarily discarded products and the  rate of consumption of such products
affects the  costs and difficulties of handling  solid wastes.

      The rationale for a governmental role in waste reduction lies in the
realization that although solid waste management costs and problems are
in a large part determined by producer and consumer decisions there is
virtually no economic incentive for producers and consumers to modify
their behavior on this account.  A producer bases his decisions on  .!•
the costs that he directly experiences, not on the costs incurred by
another that must dispose of his product.  It is very difficult for a
consumer to relate his purchase decisions to the costs of product disposal.
In many communities solid waste management charges are hidden in general
property taxes.  The local public agencies and private firms that collect
and dispose of solid waste, and directly incur the costs of waste management,
have virtually no influence over the quantity of waste produced.   As a
result waste generation rates increase in an uncontrolled manner.
     Similarly production and consumption decisions are not made
with full consideration of the long-term limitations on the supply
and availability of natural resources.  These decisions are generally
based upon short-term profit or benefit maximization and the costs to
future generations are generally not adequately reflected.  In this area
certain government policies such as depletion allowances, foreign
tax credits, and other favorable tax treatments actually stimulate
consumption of natural resources and thereby provide a disincentive for
conservation and use of waste materials.
     The fact that product design and consumption decisions influence
both solid waste management costs and resource utilization costs and
that these costs are not reflected into such decisions is an

indication of a market failure.   Appropriate cost  signals are  not
reaching the participants who can influence these  costs.  If such
costs were in some way reflected in product prices,  producer and consumer
decisions would act to limit waste generation rates.   The need to
correct these market failures is the crux of the rationale  for government
programs to attempt to stimulate waste reduction.   Waste is a  byproduct
of our production and consumption system, but the system is not accounting
for the costs of waste generation.
     The extent of the Federal government's role in waste reduction is
limited by the authorities legislated by the Congress.  The Solid  Waste
Disposal Act provides for the development and dissemination of information
and for Federal leadership and direction.  While this is a  very important
activity in that it provides information to producers and consumers
concerning the solid waste management ramifications of their  actions,
it does not provide any  incentive for a change in behavior.
     A number of bills before Congress have set forth more active Federal
roles in this area of waste reduction.  One approach that has been suggested
calls for the development of national standards for consumer products
based upon criteria such as reusability, useful lifetime, material content,
and other factors.  This is certainly the most objectionable approach
to the  business and industrial  community in  that  it involves direct
government  intervention  into  product designs.  Such an approach could
entail  high  administrative  costs  if applied  to the numerous product
categories  in  the  waste  stream.   Regulation  may nevertheless  be appropriate
for  certain  select items that result  in  extremely difficult waste disposal
problems  or  very  high  disposal  costs.

     A  second  approach  that  has  been  suggested appears to be more
oriented  towards direct adjustment of the market failures previously
identified.  This approach involves providing direct economic incentives
or disincentives to the producers and consumers.  One specific proposal
involves  placing a charge equal  to solid waste management costs on all
consumer  products and disbursement of the revenues collected to local
solid waste management  agencies.  A second proposal involves the placement
of refundable deposits  on items such as beverage containers, to
provide an incentive for their return and a disincentive for their
disposal or littering.  A third involves adjustment or removal  of virgin
raw material tax benefits.   The economic incentive approach has certain
advantages in that while it readjusts economic signals to reflect all
costs it allows the market system to determine final  product choices.
     In EPA we are continuing to explore the various options which could
be employed to reduce waste generation.   Progress in this area is very slow
because the concepts are new to us all,  and we may be at the forefront of a
new perception of how to deal with environmental  probelms.   We must continue
to promote conventional  approaches to solid waste management.  We must
strive to control  environmentally unacceptable disposal  practices.   We must
accelerate the construction of resource recovery plants.   But at the same
time we must now begin to face the fact  that in the formulation of overall
federal  solid waste management policy, we must also address the compelling
need to reduce waste generation.

1.  The Solid Waste Disposal  Act;  Title II  of Public Law 89-272,  89th  Congress,
     S.306-0ctober 20, 1965, as amended by The Resource Recovery Act  of  1970,
     Public Law 91-512-91st Congress,  H.R. 11833-October 26,  1970;  by Public
     Law 93-14-93rd Congress, H.R.  5446-April  9,  1973 (To extend the  amended
     Solid Waste Disposal Act—for  one year);  and by Public Law  93-611-93rd
     Congress, H.R. 16045-January 2, 1975  (To  amend the Solid Waste Disposal
     Act to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 1975).  Environmental
     Protection Publication SW-1.3.  [Washington], U.S. Environmental
     Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste  Management Programs,  1975.
     14 p.

2.  All waste generation and recovery projections  are based upon:

     Smith, F. A.  Technical possibilities for solid waste reduction  and
          resource recovery; prospects to  1985.   Washington,  U.S. Environ-
          mental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste Management
          Programs, Dec. 10, 1974.   18 p.   (Unpublished paper.)

     Midwest Research Institute.   Base line forecasts of resource recovery,
          1972 to 1990; final report.   Environmental Protection  Publication
          SW-107c.  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1975.   376  p.
          (Distributed by National  Technical Information Service, Spring-
          field, Va. as PB-245 924.)