Profile in Garbage articles are waste fact sheets provided by Waste Age. Chaz Miller, state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, researches and writes the detailed overviews of each specific type of waste.
Waste Stream Categories
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)
Municipal solid waste (MSW) is the trash generated by households and businesses. For a second consecutive year, Americans produced less solid waste.
Aseptic Boxes (Milk Cartons)
Aseptic boxes, also known as drink boxes, were introduced into the United States in 1981 to house liquids, primarily beverages such as milk, fruit juices and wine.
Food waste includes uneaten portions of meals and trimmings from food preparation. Food waste is the largest component of discarded waste by weight.
Glass containers are made from sand, limestone, soda ash, cullet (crushed bottles) and various additives, including those used to color brown, green or blue bottles. Lighter materials have helped cull glass from the waste stream.
Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled product in the United States. More than 80 percent of the lead produced in America is used in lead-acid batteries.
Scrap tires present unique recycling and disposal challenges because they are heavy, bulky and made from a variety of materials. Scrap tire stockpiles have been reduced by 87 percent since 1990.
Yard waste is the most source-reduced item in the waste stream. Yard waste includes grass, leaves, and tree and brush trimmings.
Aluminum packaging has never comprised more than 1 percent of generated MSW. Twenty-two percent of the aluminum used in America goes into packaging.
Steel cans contain one third less metal than they did 20 years ago. Steel cans are made from tinplate steel, which is produced in basic oxygen furnaces.
Corrugated boxes are named for the fluted inner layer that is sandwiched between layers of linerboard. Corrugated boxes are the most recycled product in the waste stream by weight.
Unique, clay-coated paper makes magazines difficult to recycle. Catalogs also are primarily printed on coated, ground wood paper.
The most substantial component of curbside recycling is fast disappearing. Despite declining readership, however, newspapers remain a key curbside recyclable.
Office paper recycling has more than quadrupled since 1960. Office paper is a generic name given to a wide variety of paper products used in offices and businesses, including writing, computer and copying paper.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin is produced from the chemical compound ethylene. All HDPE products have a garbage market share of 2 percent.
Different resins and colors make plastic film difficult to recycle. Examples include grocery sacks, trash bags, drycleaning bags and plastic wrap.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a plastic resin used to make bottles for soft drinks and other household and consumer products. Exports became the largest market for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in 2007.