What  Is  Integrated  Solid
           Waste  Management?
        This fact sheet provides an overview of options for managing solid

        waste, identifies the important issues you should consider when

        planning for solid waste management, and describes the link between

solid waste management and climate change. The other fact sheets in this series

• How To Establish Recycling and Composting Programs
• What Are the Components of Waste Collection and Transport?
• What Are the Options for Waste Disposal?

Why Is Solid Waste Management a Challenge?
Waste generation increases with population expansion and economic development.
Improperly managed solid waste poses a risk to human health and the environment.
Uncontrolled dumping and improper waste handling causes a variety of problems, including
contaminating water, attracting insects and rodents, and increasing flooding due to blocked
drainage canals or gullies. In addition, it may result in safety hazards from fires or
explosions. Improper waste management also increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
which contribute to climate change (for more information on climate change and the impacts
from solid waste, see next page). Planning for and implementing a comprehensive program
for waste collection, transport, and disposal—along with activities to prevent or recycle
waste—can eliminate these problems.

What Is Integrated Solid Waste Management?
Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) is a comprehensive waste prevention, recycling,
composting, and disposal program. An effective ISWM system considers how to prevent,
recycle, and manage solid waste in ways that most effectively protect human health and the
environment. ISWM involves evaluating local needs and conditions, and then selecting and
combining the most appropriate waste management activities for those conditions. The
major ISWM activities  are waste prevention, recycling and composting, and combustion and
disposal in properly designed, constructed, and managed landfills (see Figure  1). Each of
these activities requires careful planning, financing, collection, and transport, all of which are
discussed in this and the other fact sheets.

                                   wy Printed on paper that contains at least SO percent postconsumer fiber.

Waste Prevention. Waste prevention—also
called "source reduction"—seeks to prevent
waste from being generated. Waste prevention
strategies include using less packaging, designing
products to last longer, and reusing products and
materials. Waste prevention helps reduce
handling, treatment, and disposal costs and
ultimately reduces the generation of methane.
Recycling and Composting. Recycling is a
process that involves collecting, reprocessing,
and/or recovering certain waste materials (e.g.,
glass, metal, plastics, paper) to make new
materials or products. Some recycled organic
materials are rich in nutrients and can be used to
improve soils. The conversion of waste materials
into soil additives is called composting. Recycling
and composting generate many environmental
and economic benefits. For example, they create
jobs and income, supply valuable raw materials
to industry, produce soil-enhancing compost,
and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the
number of landfills and combustion facilities.
Disposal (landfilling and combustion). These
activities are used to manage waste that cannot
be prevented or recycled. One way to dispose of
   waste is to place it in properly designed,
   constructed, and managed landfills, where it is
   safely contained. Another way to handle this
   waste is through combustion. Combustion is the
   controlled burning of waste, which helps reduce
   its volume. If the technology is available,
   properly designed, constructed, and managed
   landfills can be used to generate energy by
   recovering methane. Similarly, combustion
   facilities produce steam and water as a byproduct
   that can be used to generate energy.

Developing a Plan for Integrated
Solid Waste Management
Planning is the first step in designing or improving
a waste management system. Waste management
planners should, for example, take into
consideration institutional, social, financial,
economic, technical, and environmental factors (see
Table 1). These factors vary from place to place.
Based on these factors, each community has the
challenge of selecting the combination of waste
management activities that best suits its needs.

Because integrated solid waste management involves
both short-  and long-term choices, it is critical to
                        Figure 1—Integrated Solid Waste Management

set achievable goals. While developing your ISWM
plan, you should identify goals or objectives (e.g.,
protect human health, protect water supplies,
eliminate open dumping, increase recycling or
composting). The ISWM plan will help guide you
through  the implementation process. Do not neglect
                                  to ask for the community's input in developing your
                                  plan, so as to ensure an informed public and to
                                  increase public acceptance.

                                  Government plays an important role in developing
                                  and enforcing waste management standards,
                                  providing funding,  and managing day-to-day
             Table 1 - Important Questions to Consider and Steps to Take When Developing
                              an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan
 (laws and
Are existing laws and
policies adequate to
allow the government
to properly implement
Establish a national policy and pass laws on solid waste
management standards and practices.
Identify the roles and responsibilities of each level of
Ensure the local government has the authority and resources to
implement an ISWM plan.
 (local customs and
 religious practices,
 public education)
What types of waste
does your community
generate and how it is
Where will you go to get
funds for creating a
solid waste
management system?
Encourage citizen participation in all phases of waste
management planning to help gain community awareness,
input, and acceptance.
Identify sources that can provide funding for solid waste
management, including general revenues or user fees, the
private sector, and government or international agency grants
and loans.
 (costs and job
 (location and
What will it cost to
implement various
waste management
 (natural resources
 and human health)
Where will you build
collection and disposal
facilities and what
equipment will you
Will solid waste
management activities
(e.g., landfilling or
combustion) affect the
Calculate the initial capital investment requirements and long-
term operating and maintenance costs associated with the
various waste management activities.
Evaluate the public's ability and willingness to pay.
Evaluate activities based on effectiveness in handling waste and
potential for job creation.
Include geological factors, transport distances, and projected
waste generation in siting and design considerations.
Determine what equipment and training will be necessary to
perform the waste  management tasks. (See How To Establish
Recycling and Composting Programs, What Are the Components
of Waste Collection  and Transport?, and What Are the Options for
Waste Disposal? fad sheets.)

Establish procedures to verify the protection of groundwater
and drinking water.
Monitor compliance with the national standards to ensure
human health risks are minimized.

operations of solid waste management activities.
Each level of government may have responsibility
in your ISWM plan: national governments
typically set standards for solid waste
management; the state, provincial, or regional
governments may help monitor and enforce these
standards; and local governments often play the
primary role of managing solid waste activities on
a daily basis. All levels may also provide funding
for solid waste management activities. Two
primary costs must be considered in any waste
management system: initial capital costs (to
purchase  equipment or construct new facilities)
and ongoing operations and maintenance costs.
These costs can be funded in a number of ways
including private equity, government loans, local
taxes, or users fees.

Implementing an  Integrated Solid
Waste  Management  Plan
Once you have developed and written your solid
waste management plan, you can begin to
implement the various combinations  of waste
management activities. Implementing an ISWM
plan is an ongoing process, so expect to make
adjustments to the plan along the way. Always
evaluate system inefficiencies and make
adjustments to improve or expand solid waste
management services. Figure 2 (on back page)
illustrates how you can implement an ISWM
plan. Some of these questions may have been
answered during development of the ISWM plan,
but it is important to see how they fit into the
comprehensive implementation process.  Equally
important, it emphasizes the need to provide
public  education and keep the community
involved in every step of the process.

Be flexible and creative when implementing your
plan. If you are not making progress in a certain
area, be prepared to reevaluate components of
your plan. It is helpful to keep in mind the
ultimate goal of ISWM: to improve human health
and protect the environment.

  Combustion: Refers to controlled burning of waste with environmental control technology to
  reduce the waste volume and generate energy.

  Composting: The controlled aerobic biological decomposition of organic matter, such as food scraps
  and plant matter, into humus, a soil-like material.

  Aerobic: Decomposition process in the presence of oxygen (see "composting").

  Anaerobic: Decomposition process in the absence of oxygen (see "methane").

  Landfill: Disposal site for nonhazardous solid wastes. The waste is spread into layers, compacted to
  reduce its volume, and covered by material such as clay or soil, which is applied at the end of each
  operating day.

  Methane: Gas generated when wastes in a landfill decompose anaerobically; comprises
  approximately 50 percent of the  gases emitted from landfills.

  Recycling: The act of collecting, reprocessing, and/or recovering certain waste materials to make
  new materials or products

What Is the Relationship Between
Climate Change and Solid Waste?

The Earth's atmosphere contains many types of gases,
including those known as "greenhouse gases," which
hold in the sun's warmth (see text box). Scientists call
this naturally occurring phenomenon the "greenhouse
effect." Greenhouse gases help regulate global
temperatures. Certain human activities such as
burning fossil fuels and dumping solid waste,
however, produce additional greenhouse gases and
upset the natural balance by raising global

Greenhouse gas emissions are slowly changing the
Earth's climate. The Earth has already become slightly
warmer in the past 100 years and will continue to
become warmer. This could cause serious human
health and environmental consequences because a
warmer climate may cause more frequent and severe
heat waves, damage agriculture, and cause droughts
in some places and floods in others.

Even before a material or product becomes solid
waste, it goes through a long cycle that involves
removing and processing raw materials,
manufacturing the product, transporting the materials
and products to markets, and using energy to operate
the product. Each of these activities has the potential
to generate greenhouse gas emissions through one or
more of the following means:

• Energy consumption. Extracting and processing
  raw materials, manufacturing products, and
  transporting materials and products to markets all
  generate greenhouse gas emissions by consuming
  energy from fossil fuels.
• Methane emissions. When organic waste
  decomposes in landfills, it generates methane, a
  greenhouse gas.
•  Carbon storage. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a
   greenhouse gas, from the air and store it in wood
   through carbon sequestration. Waste prevention
   and recycling of wood and paper products allow
   more trees to remain standing in the forest, where
   they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from
   the air, which helps minimize climate change

Different wastes and waste management activities
have varying impacts on energy consumption,
methane emissions, and carbon storage. For example,
recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions by
preventing methane emissions from landfills or open
dumps and by preventing the consumption of energy
for extracting and processing raw materials.
Communities that are looking for ways to help
prevent  climate change can start by implementing an
integrated solid waste management program.

  Some greenhouse gases—such as water vapor,
  carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and
  ozone—occur naturally in the atmosphere, while
  others result from human activities.

  Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere
  when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and
  coal), and wood and wood products are burned.
  Methane is emitted during the production and
  transport of coal, natural gas, and oil; the
  decomposition of organic wastes in municipal solid
  waste landfills; and by livestock. Nitrous oxide is
  emitted during agricultural and industrial
  activities, as well as during  the combustion of solid
  waste and fossil fuels.

  Each greenhouse gas differs in its ability to trap
  heat in the atmosphere.  Methane traps over 21
  times more heat than carbon dioxide, and nitrous
  oxide absorbs 310 times more than carbon dioxide.
  The higher the heat trapping potential of the gas,
  the greater the impact on climate change. Efforts
  to decrease emissions of  these gases help reduce
  climate change impacts.

           Figure 2—Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Planning Process
                                             START HERE
                   Evaluate the Waste
                 Management System
          How can you make adjustments or improve or
            expand solid waste management services?
Identify Needs
What types of waste
are currently generated
and in what quantities?
                        Review Existing System
                        Where are the uncontrolled dumps located? How is
                        waste currently managed? What role do wastepickers
                        or scavengers play in recycling waste?
         Implement the Plan

      When will you begin to conduct solid
          waste management activities?
Review Existing Regulations
Are the existing laws adequate for ISWM?
Develop the Integrated Solid
    Waste Management Plan
    How will you finance building of facilities,
 obtain equipment, and hire and train workers?
                                          Public Participation
 Organize Decision-Making
 Who will make the decisions?
                   Compare Options

          Which activities are the most cost-effective?
               Are they affordable in the long-run?
                                              Identify Potential

                                              Which waste management activities
                                              (e.g., waste prevention, recycling,
                                              disposal) will help you achieve your
                        Establish Objectives
                        What are your short- and long-term goals?
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Solid Waste and Emergency Response
May 2002