Waste Minimization

Waste Minimization in the United States

Waste Minimization in Environmental Law

Although reducing and controlling the discharge of pollution has been the method of regulation adopted in the major environmental laws, another option is more attractive: waste minimization.

After waste products are treated at the end of the manufacturing process, they must be disposed of. Environmental statutes and regulations specify the ways waste may be disposed. But by streamlining processes, businesses may be able to reduce the amount of resulting waste. This reduction benefits not only the environment, but also the business, which has less waste to manage. If the waste is hazardous, the price of disposal will be greatly reduced, because all costs for hazardous waste handling, transportation and disposal are high, and future liability for cleanup will remain as long as the generator of the waste exists.

Waste can be minimized in several ways: reducing the amount of raw products introduced in the system, selecting more efficient technology, using fewer toxic or hazardous components in the system, increasing the amount of recycled goods used in manufactured products, recycling waste, and treating spent materials so they can be reused within the system in which they were created. The end result, a reduction in the amount of waste produced, is good for all of us.

Recycling is an effective way to reduce waste. In many jurisdictions, it is not optional. Particularly in states and cities where land is hard to find, new landfills simply cannot be built after the old landfills close. When a state runs out of room for waste, it turns to other states for assistance, but the citizens in the receiving states usually do not appreciate being a dumping ground.

Thus disposal of waste has become a difficult political and social issue. No one wants a landfill in his or her community. In fact, the citizens’ rallying cry “Not in my backyard!” has become so common it has earned an acronym: NIMBY. Proposed incineration sites have been strongly opposed by communities in the past few years, and industrial and hazardous waste sites are extremely unpopular.

Even if the discussion is limited to nontoxic domestic waste, we clearly have no room to continue disposing at the rate we have in the past. One answer is reducing waste at the source. For the average consumer, this means selecting products with less packaging, rejecting products if the products themselves or their packaging are not earth friendly, recycling, and buying recycled goods.

Recycling has become a popular solution. But for recycling to work, a complete loop must be created. The goods have to be made of recyclable products, people must deliver the recyclable component, a recycler must process the product, then it must be incorporated into new goods. Finally, the consumer must select recycled goods in sufficient amounts to establish and sustain a market.

The direct advantages of recycling include keeping the product from becoming a waste and reducing the volume of virgin resources needed. However, the indirect effect is also important. If fewer new products have to be manufactured from raw materials, production wastes should shrink.

To encourage reduction in packaging, Germany requires producers of products to accept packaging it creates. The consumer simply brings the packaging back to the seller. This procedure encourages manufacturers to reduce volume of waste and returns the packaging to those most able to reuse it.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.

Waste Minimization: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Waste Minimization. This part provides references, in relation to Waste Minimization, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Waste Minimization by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Waste Minimization and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Waste Minimization or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Waste Minimization and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Waste Minimization. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Waste Minimization should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Waste Minimization when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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