Solid Waste:

State and Federal Efforts to Manage Nonhazardous Waste

RCED-95-3: Published: Feb 2, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed state and federal efforts to manage municipal, commercial, and industrial solid waste, focusing on: (1) how states are addressing the rising costs of solid waste management and public opposition to solid waste facilities; and (2) the federal role in addressing solid waste management issues.

GAO found that: (1) as of December 1994, 46 states had developed or were developing solid waste management plans to address diminishing disposal capacity, the rising costs of solid waste management, and public opposition to new disposal sites in local communities; (2) the eight state plans reviewed propose options for managing solid waste and alternative financing mechanisms to support local recycling programs and landfill closings; (3) states have used special fees and taxes to finance 74 percent of their solid waste programs; (4) although local opposition to solid waste management facilities has delayed site selection and construction, two of the eight plans contain procedures for selecting waste management sites; (5) some state officials and industry experts believe that the federal government should assist in developing national source reduction goals, setting packaging and recovered material standards, developing markets for recyclable materials, and ensuring sufficient disposal capacity; (6) although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports state source reduction and recycling efforts, it does not plan to enforce its 1992 municipal solid waste agenda or believe that it should lead recycling or source reduction activities; (7) although EPA projects that recycling rates of 25 to 35 percent may be achieved by the year 2000, additional advances may have to be made to achieve these rates; and (8) although legislation has been proposed authorizing states to restrict the interstate and intrastate shipment of solid waste, sufficient data do not exist to determine the impact of this authority on the solid waste management industry.

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