Table Of Contents

Municipal Waste Explained

Waste collected and managed by or for municipalities is considered municipal waste. It includes trash or garbage from houses, including bulky food waste, organic waste, construction waste, demolition waste, agricultural waste, urban mining waste, integrated waste, and industrial waste.

It also refers to equivalent rubbish from businesses, office buildings, institutions, and small businesses, medical waste, electronic waste, yard waste, yard trimmings, garden waste, street sweepings, the contents of litter containers, and market cleaning waste.

All stages of human activity result in the production of large amounts of waste, including the extraction of raw materials, the conversion of raw materials into both intermediate and final goods, and the consumption of these products, among others. The municipal waste sector only accounts for roughly 10% of total waste.

Whereas the public sector frequently spends more than one-third of its budget on its management and treatment. Keep reading for more details on municipal waste, including types of solid waste, disposal, and management techniques.

What Is Municipal Solid Waste?

Municipal solid waste, also called garbage or trash, refers to everyday items used and thrown away by people, homes, towns, small and large businesses, and commercial and industrial organisations. However, waste from construction and demolition activities and municipal sewage networks is not included in the definition.

Municipal garbage in developed countries with materials recovery facilities (MRFs) consists of waste that recovery facilities cannot recycle. The waste that cannot be recycled is dumped in landfills.

The majority of municipal solid waste (MSW) is made up of items like:

• Packaging

• Grass clippings

• Bottles

• Furniture

• Clothing

Food scraps

• Newspapers

• Appliances

• Paint

• Batteries

As previously mentioned, the waste above originates from various sectors such as workplaces, enterprises, hospitals, and schools. As seen by the examples, nearly everything humans do produces trash. Municipal solid trash thus reflects the lifestyle and consumption habits of the local populace. The municipal solid waste districts can reveal a lot about a city.

Municipal Solid Waste Management

Globally, waste managers are becoming formal on a regional basis. Now, waste management is an official task on a regional scale. This need is necessary for numerous reasons. Localisation is crucial since the quantity and consequences of municipal solid waste differ in industrialised cities.

Municipalities must thus develop a system for managing municipal garbage that is both effective and efficient. Unfortunately, municipal waste management facilities often face many problems beyond the ability of the municipal authority to handle municipal solid waste. These troubles are generally due to:

• Complexity

• Lack of financial resources

• Organisation problems

• Irregular operations

• Shortage of trackability

• Low digitalisation levels

Consequently, inefficient waste management facts and figures modify the ecosystem, including air, soil, and water pollution. This makes improper management and disposal of municipal solid waste an environmental danger.

Elements Of Municipal Solid Waste Management

Recycling, composting, disposal, and waste-to-energy incineration are the main components of the municipal solid waste industry. There is a hierarchy ranking strategy for municipal solid waste because no one method can be used to manage all waste streams.

The levels of the waste management hierarchy are ranked from the most to least desired according to how environmentally sound they are: recycling or composting, energy recovery, source reduction, resource recovery, resource conservation, treatment, and disposal.

MSW collection

The functional components included in this level include gathering recyclables and solid or non-hazardous waste and transporting them from the collection site to where the collection vehicle is emptied (the disposal site). The disposal site could be a landfill dumping site, a materials processing facility, or a processing and transformation station.

Both government and private businesses make up this sector. For instance, local government often oversees waste collection and transfer and might offer landfill sites. Local governments have, however, frequently contracted out these tasks to the private sector.


Recovered materials are processed at designated facilities referred to as Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), where sorting and processing occur. These materials are most often collected from residential recycling bins, and then MRFs sort comingled recyclables and other materials into "marketable materials" that are sorted and graded to be sold.

For example, over 40 multipurpose facilities and three significant MRFs in Sydney accept comingled recyclables. Metals, paper, cardboard, and plastics are resource-recovered products traded domestically and sold on global commodity markets.

Australia sells recyclables to more than 100 nations. For instance, it shipped more than 4.23 mega tonnes in 2016–2017 to countries like India, China, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. Plastic, metals and paper, and cardboard are the three principal commodities.

MSW separation, processing, and transformation

Curb side collection, drop-off, and buy-back facilities are some of the tools and infrastructure available at this level. You can use them for recycling waste products that have been separated at the source. Separation and processing of waste segregated at the source typically occur at a raw materials recovery facility, transfer stations, combustion facilities, and mechanical biological treatment plants.

Transferring and moving

There are two main steps in this component. Before moving the debris to larger transport equipment, it is moved from a smaller pickup vehicle. The garbage is subsequently moved, frequently over great distances, to a designated place or facility for processing or disposal.

Municipal Solid Waste Disposal And Management

The amount of rubbish produced is getting out of control as cities expand to accommodate growing populations. For half of the annual municipal solid trash generation rates worldwide, there are practical waste management and disposal techniques like composting, recycling programs, open dumps, sanitary landfills, and incineration facilities.

Composting is an essential waste management technique. Unfortunately, the remaining 50% of the world's solid waste is managed poorly, which causes significant harm to the environment. In addition to rivers and land, municipal trash is also dumped in the ocean. However, in the worst scenario, it gets burned in public!

The critics of "quick fixes" who oppose the incineration of municipal solid trash are correct because burning:

• Raises the landfill volume

• Harms natural resources

• Expands greenhouse gas emissions from landfills by generating methane

• Undermines efforts to combat the climate catastrophe through recycling and sustainable development

• Operations are costly, dangerous, and ineffective

Open dumps

Open dumps are uncovered locations where solid waste of all types is dumped. However, the garbage is not separated or processed, and as a result, they serve as breeding habitats for pests like rats, flies, and other disease-carrying insects. When rainwater runs off, it taints the adjacent land and water, spreading sickness. Consequently, open dumps are being phased out in several nations.


A modern sanitary landfill is not a dump. It is an engineered structure used to dispose of solid wastes on land without endangering the public's health or safety or causing problems with insects or groundwater contamination. In sanitary landfills, the layers are levelled, compacted, and covered with dirt after being squeezed with mechanical equipment.

Microorganisms then operate on the organic debris and break it down in a trench around three to five metres deep. However, landfills face numerous issues. Since landfills are used to dump all different kinds of trash, when water seeps through them, it becomes contaminated and pollutes the environment around them. Leaching is the process through which landfills contaminate groundwater and soil.

Sanitary landfills

A sanitary landfill, which is cleaner and constructed methodically, is an alternative to landfills that will help to tackle the problem of leaching. The construction process of sanitary landfills involves lining them with impermeable materials such as plastics and clay, which is quite expensive.

According to some sources, the plastic liner frequently develops cracks from reactions with chemical solvents found in the trash. Additionally, the rate of decomposition in sanitary landfills varies greatly. This may be because the rubbish is compacted so tightly that less oxygen is accessible.

It has been shown that some biodegradable substances do not break down in landfills. Methane gas formation, which takes place during anaerobic decomposition when minimal oxygen is available, is another significant issue. Methane produced by sanitary landfills is sometimes harvested and sold as fuel.

Incineration plants

Incineration is the term used to describe the process of burning garbage in huge furnaces. The recyclable materials are separated in MRFs while the remaining materials are burned. All that is left over after the process is ash. Unfortunately, some of the ash floats out with the heated indoor air during the procedure.

Dangerous poisons like dioxins and heavy metals are present in high proportions in the ash. Burning trash is not a clean practice because it pollutes the air and water and produces tons of poisonous ash. The garbage burned here can be collected and recycled in vast quantities.

In fact, incineration is now only utilised as a last resort and is primarily used to treat infectious trash. Multiple pollutants (CO2, heavy metals, dioxins, particulates) are produced during the incineration of MSW. And these pollutants affect the life cycle of humans, smog, acidification, and climate change (asthma and heart and nervous system damage).

Energy generation

Considering that municipal solid wastes contain lipids, they can be used to produce energy. If the lipid content can be obtained and used, most MSW could be transformed into clean energy.

Some technologies are being developed to make the processing of MSW for energy generation cleaner and more cost-effective. These technologies include pyrolysis, combustion, gasification, and plasma arc gasification.

Alternatives And Sustainable Fixes To Reduce MSW

Waste prevention or source reduction

Activities that reduce waste generation at the source are the most efficient at keeping items out of the MSW stream. These include:

• Finding ways to recycle goods at home or in your neighbourhood.

• Purchasing stuff like furniture and appliances from consignment stores and reuse centres.

• The amount of packing material needed is reduced by choosing packaged products or purchasing bulk.

• Buying products made of post-consumer recycled material and push businesses to pursue source reduction initiatives.

Encourage supportive public policy

• Pay-As-You-Throw programs are widely used in communities and are intended to reduce the amount of MSW generated by each household by charging citizens for waste collection based on the amount of rubbish they generate.

• Programs for composting and recycling at the curb can reduce waste disposal load.

• Some states do not prohibit the disposal of potentially hazardous objects in landfills, even though most states do (e.g., oil, batteries, tyres, and electronics).

Practice Proper MSW Disposal And Management

Keep in mind that if there is inadequate waste management, the global garbage crisis will cause similarly severe environmental harm. As mentioned, programs for composting and recycling at the curb can lessen the burden of municipal waste disposal.

Therefore, play your part in conserving the environment by practising proper municipal waste disposal and management. If you need any help with this, you can reach out to a reliable waste management facility or skip bin company near you.