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Begin With The Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries.

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Advocacy Issues

The National Waste & Recycling Association plays an active leadership role in advancing policies that benefit the solid waste industry and improve the quality of life for all Americans. Its advocacy work focuses on the legislative and regulatory objectives of its members across a variety of important solid waste issues. The Association is also proactive in its work to educate government officials at the municipal, county, state and federal levels on key policy matters that are important to the industry. Providing support to legal cases before federal and state courts is an additional and important function of the Association, in shaping laws and regulations that ensure the vitality of the solid waste collection, transportation and disposal industries.

Slow Down to Get Around

As a crucial public service, the responsible management of solid waste and recyclables are imperative to the health and function of every community. The members of the National Waste & Recycling Association are fostering regulations that protect the community and allow for the continued innovation in solid waste management across the United States. The Association’s top advocacy issues are presented in more detail below.

Legislative and Regulatory Issues

For more information about legislative or regulatory issues, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Climate Change and the Solid Waste Industry

The Earth's atmosphere is like a greenhouse -- life-sustaining heat is trapped while also reflecting the sun’s most harmful rays. Recent scientific studies have shown a significant increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – those that contributes to the “greenhouse effect” by absorbing infrared radiation. These gases are composed primarily of carbon dioxide - generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Scientific consensus is clear: these emissions are making the planet warmer at an unprecedented pace.

The solid waste industry has successfully reduced its greenhouse gas emissions during the last 3 decades, and is committed to increasing efficiencies and decreasing emissions. Of the 6,702 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent produced nationally in 2011, 1.81 was produced by the solid waste and recycling industry.

Learn more by downloading National Waste & Recycling Association's climate change fact sheet (updated May 2011).

How does the solid waste industry leave its carbon footprint, and how can that footprint be reduced?

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide comprises 80 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted in America by human activity. The solid waste industry produces less than one half of one percent of these carbon emissions, mostly from sources like collection trucks, energy use at waste transfer stations and landfills, materials processing facilities, composting facilities, and waste-to-energy facilities. To help shrink its greenhouse gas footprint, the solid waste industry is increasingly using hybrid and alternative fueled vehicles. Nearly 6,000 alternative fuel trucks were in use in 2013. Many companies have committed to replacing diesel trucks with alternative fuel trucks as part of their truck replacement strategy.

Two other prevalent greenhouse gases are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane comes mostly from natural gas systems, enteric fermentation from livestock and landfills. A small amount comes from composting. Minor quantities of nitrous oxide are produced by waste-to-energy facilities and composting. Landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions. The percentage of methane emissions from landfills has been declining for the last two decades.

Landfills and climate change

Decreased methane gas emissions from landfills are a tremendous success story for the solid waste industry. Current landfill emissions would be almost twice as high if landfill gas-to-energy projects did not flare-off excess gas or recover methane as an energy source. As of July 2013, at least 621 projects were operational in 48 states annually supply 102 billion cubic feet of landfill gas. This powers and heats nearly 2 million homes, according to the EPA. Some of this gas can also be converted into a biofuel and used by specially designed garbage and recycling collection trucks.

Landfill gas recovery plays a part in reducing national dependence on foreign oil, and has been referenced by the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as directly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental benefits of landfill gas recovery are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from nearly 18,500,000 passenger cars. The EPA estimates that you would need a forest bigger than the state of New Mexico to equal to the amount of CO2 sequestered by landfill gas projects.

Two other ways that landfill gas emissions can be reduced are by microbial methane oxidation and carbon sequestration. In microbial methane oxidation, as any uncollected landfill gas passes through the landfill’s cover, bacteria will react with oxygen and consume some of the methane before it is released. This process reduces 14.8 tetragrams of carbon dioxide equivalent in methane emissions. Carbon sequestration occurs when there is incomplete degradation of organic materials, providing long term storage of carbon.

Waste-to-energy and climate change

Waste-to-energy facilities lower America’s greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil fuel sources. Energy produced at the 86 facilities in the United States produce enough electricity to power almost 1.7 million homes and avoids the production of an equivalent amount of electricity derived from burning fossil fuels. Energy recovery facilities also lower landfill methane emissions by diverting waste from landfills.

Recycling, composting and climate change

Recycling and composting are other services the solid waste industry uses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling provides tremendous energy savings by re-using items rather than (re)manufacturing new ones.

Americans recycled or composted almost 35 percent of the nation’s waste in 2011, leading to a 2.5 percent reduction in America’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That reduction is more than the amount of greenhouse gas produced by our collection, processing and disposal activities. Researchers estimate that between 1974 and 1997, solid waste and recycling greenhouse gas emissions declined by 78 percent even though waste generation increased by 70 percent. These gains were a result of increased recycling, composting, landfill gas recovery and waste-to-energy processing, along with more stringent regulation of landfills.

Source: "Environmental Benefits of Recycling," National Recycling Coalition, 2005. Recycling calculations include emissions from materials collection, separation, treatment (composting), and transportation to a remanufacturing facility.
Percentage of energy saved by recycling compared with raw materials usage
Newspaper: 40 percent
Glass: 40 percent
Steel: 60 percent
Plastics: 70 percent
Aluminum: 95 percent

National Waste & Recycling Association Climate Change Policy

The Association comments frequently on EPA proposals relating to climate change. We believe that improved solid waste management will continue to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The solid waste industry has dramatically reduced its overall emissions even as the amount of municipal solid waste has increased.

America's solid waste industry achieved these reductions through increased recycling, composting, landfill gas destruction and recovery, and waste-to-energy, along with better regulation of our landfills. We are developing new technologies such as bioreactor landfills that enhance our ability to more effectively collect and use landfill gas. We are advancing new technologies that allow the use of alternative fuels and engine designs that will lower greenhouse gas emissions from collection and transport vehicles. We continue to find more efficient ways to recover valuable materials through increased recycling and composting.

The Association believes that a national greenhouse gas control program should include landfill gas recovery as an offset in a cap and trade program and as a renewable energy source; support recycling and compost programs; recognize “early actions” that achieved greenhouse gas reductions (e.g., flaring or recovering landfill gas for energy and recycling); and support emission reporting rules that address anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and recognize net emissions and reductions on a lifecycle basis to include methane oxidation in landfill covers, carbon storage in landfills, and the effect of flaring off or recovering landfill gas as an energy source. We are proud to be one of the few industries whose greenhouse gas emissions have declined over the last 20 years.

Commercial Drivers Licenses

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released new minimum training requirements for commercial drivers licenses. These went into effect July 2004. The requirements mandate training on wellness, hours of service, federal medical rules and whistleblower protections.

On December 2, 2005, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the regulations and ordered FMCSA to rewrite these requirements. The Court noted that FMCSA's rule did not include instruction in driving skills or in safe operating practices. The regulations will remain in effect until new rules are promulgated.

New rules were proposed in accordance with the Court decision, but the agency has not yet issued final regulations.

Electronic Waste

Our modern society depends heavily on electronics products, but as quickly as we acquire them we dispose of them, buying newer, better replacements. Many electronics products, known as “e-waste” or "e-scrap," include materials that can be harmful if managed improperly. Some states ban the disposal of select electronics products, citing the presence of hazardous materials like lead in TV sets and cell phones.

The National Waste & Recycling Association believes that electronic waste must always be handled and disposed of properly. The Association does not support disposal bans on electronics waste. When these materials are discarded in a Subtitle D landfill, they will not leach lead or other hazardous constituents because landfills have a virtually neutral pH. Check out the joint letter to the U.S. Congress written by the Association and the Solid Waste Association of North American (SWANA) countering misinformation about the impact of electronics products in landfills.

Overall, the Association supports e-scrap recycling programs, but also believes that e-scrap recycling should not be an unfunded mandate.

Here is the Association’s policy on e-scrap, adopted in 2006:

The National Waste & Recycling Association, a trade association representing the solid waste and recycling industries, supports a multi-prong program for managing electronic product discards. This includes:

    • Decreasing the hazardous materials used in manufacturing electronics products without compromising product efficiency or safety;
    • Increasing recyclability by designing electronics products to be easily disassembled and processed;
    • Providing financial support for electronics recycling through an advance recycling fee or manufacturer responsibility requirements so that electronics recycling does not become an unfunded mandate for local government or for private sector recyclers;
    • Increasing electronics recycling by building upon the existing solid waste and recycling infrastructure for collection and processing;
    • Ensuring environmental, health and safety standards for proper management of collected materials including reporting and documentation procedures by end-markets;
    • Supporting programs to develop new processing technologies;
    • Supporting programs to develop new end markets, including the possibility of recycled content provisions in new electronics products;
    • Using “rates and dates” to ensure accountability if manufacturer responsibility programs are adopted;
    • Opposing bans on land disposal of electronics products until adequate infrastructure is readily available to ensure that they will be recycled."

The Association, joined by SWANA, the Integrated Waste Services Association and the National Recycling Coalition, issued a press release and a joint policy on e-scrap pledging to work together to achieve as close to 100 percent recycling of these products as possible.

Visit BeginwiththeBin to learn how you can re-use or recycle your electronic waste.

Flow Control

The term flow control refers to governmental laws or policies that require or encourage waste materials to be disposed at designated disposal facilities (landfills, transfer stations or incinerators). Many local governments engage in flow control to ensure they collect the revenue associated with the disposal of solid waste. In 1994, the United States Supreme Court declared that flow control violated the U.S. Constitution, but in April 2007, the court narrowed that decision and stated that local governments are permitted to engage in flow control to government-owned and operated disposal facilities under specific circumstances.

Local waste generators and waste companies challenge flow control because it often increases costs without any corresponding benefits. The practice adversely affects solid waste haulers, who prefer to choose from competitive facilities based on cost and service, or who prefer to use their own disposal facilities, with certainty that all environmental protections are being met. Landfill owners, who would receive waste (and revenue) in the absence of flow control, also oppose the policy.

The National Waste & Recycling Association opposes Flow Control policies. The Association believes that government should not restrict the free movement of solid waste because such restrictions lead to higher costs for everyone. Flow control is anti-competitive. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Report to Congress on Flow Control and Municipal Solid Waste, flow control does not provide additional human health or environmental benefits and is not essential for developing MSW management capacity or for achieving recycling goals. The Association has prepared a factsheet that summarizes our opposition to flow control.

Learn more:

  • A useful summary of the arguments on both sides of the flow control issue can be found in "Flow Control Faceof," a debate in the January 2004 issue of Waste360.

Healthcare Waste

The National Waste & Recycling Association supports the Healthcare Waste Institute (HWI) whose mission includes:

  • responsible facilitation of healthcare waste management from all types of generators;
  • acting as a resource network for technical and regulatory assistance;
  • being recognized as a respected, proactive, responsive, and credible organization;
  • creating high value for its membership.

For more information on the Healthcare Watch Institute, click here.

Hours of Service

The Association has filed comments on numerous occasions with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on different proposal to change the agency’s hours of service regulations. These requirements govern how long a commercial motor vehicle driver can operate a truck in a day and a week. Most recently, the Association supported the retention of the 34-hour “restart” provision. This provision would have allowed a driver to “restart” the work week after taking 34 hours consecutive hours off. The restart would have allowed our industry flexibility, especially when dealing with changed route schedules due to federal or state holidays. FMCSA did not retain that provision, instead imposing a requirement of two consecutive periods off from 1 to 5 a.m. A summary of hours of service regulations can be found at

FMCSA published the final Hours of Service of Drivers Rule in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. The Final Rule became effective on February 27, 2012, and compliance with all remaining provisions was required by July 1, 2013.

Interstate Transport of Solid Wastes

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the "dormant" Commerce Clause (stating that legislation with discriminatory intent or effect will be found unconstitutional) prohibits states or local governments from banning or placing special burdens on out-of-state waste. The National Waste & Recycling Association is frequently a party to such cases or files amicus briefs in support of its members.

Solid waste is exported from or imported into every state except Hawaii. These shipments are an important and normal part of interstate commerce and are protected by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

Learn more:

  • Interstate Shipment of Municipal Solid Waste: 2007 Update is the most recent publication by the Congressional Research Service. According to the CRS survey, in 2005 approximately 42 million tons of municipal solid waste was transported across state lines for disposal in landfills or incinerators.
  • Our report "Interstate Movement of Solid Waste: 2005" provides additional data and information on this issue.
  • The Association’s testimony before the U.S. House or Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee (Aug, 2001) provides additional information.
  • Our testimony at a Michigan legislative hearing clearly presents the protections given by international law to the movement of American and Canadian solid and hazardous waste across international borders.
  • The legal section found on this page, provides several references to legal cases in this area.

Just Compensation and Hauler Displacement

When a city or county government reclassifies its boundaries, reconfiguring solid waste collection services for its newly acquired constituents, our members - private sector haulers - lose their customer base. This can also occur when a local government provides solid waste management as a government service, displacing private sector haulers. Currently, with these kinds of government actions, private sector companies are not compensated for lost business or investment in labor and equipment. To ensure that private companies are fairly compensated for lost business due to government intervention, the National Waste & Recycling Association and its members support “just compensation” or “hauler displacement legislation.”

Learn more:


Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Despite an increase in the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) over the last 40 years, the Association, its members and the wider industry have championed the safe and increasingly sustainable landfill disposal of MSW generated in the United States. The “garbage dump” is no more. Today’s modern MSW landfills, also called Subtitle D landfills because they are regulated based on the RCRA Subtitle D requirements, are well-engineered facilities operating under strict federal and state regulations to ensure protection of human health and the environment. Many American landfills are also producing energy to power communities, through waste-to-energy technology and landfill gas capture.

Cross-Section of a Modern MSW Landfill

A graphic depiction of the major components of a MSW landfill in compliance with federal regulations.
A graphic depiction of the major components of a MSW landfill in compliance with federal regulations.

Typical Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Components

Liner System
Liner systems can include clay, geotextiles, and/or plastics on the bottom and sides of the landfill to prevent liquids from leaving the landfill and impacting groundwater resources. In the cross-section, the liner system is comprised of a compacted liner overlain by a synthetic liner.
Leachate Collection System
The leachate collection system is placed on top of the liner to collect and remove water draining through the waste. Leachate collected in the LCS is treated on- or off-site.
Cap System
A final cap with the same hydraulic conductivity as the liner is placed on top of the landfill when its final height has been reached. On top of the hydraulic barrier, a vegetative layer is installed to grow vegetation. The cap system prevents precipitation from infiltrating into the landfill after closure.
Gas Collection System
A gas collection system is installed in the landfill using perforated vertical and horizontal pipes to prevent methane and other trace organic gases from escaping. The gas is extracted under a vacuum and pumped to a destruction devise such as a flare or energy utilization facility.
Surface Water Control System
A network of storm water drainage channels is installed on and around the landfill to collect precipitation in a rainwater retention pond. The storm water collection system controls erosion on the cap and adjacent areas to prevent surface water contamination.
Monitoring System
A comprehensive environmental monitoring system is installed around the landfill to ensure that the liner and gas collection systems are operating properly and that human health and the environment are protected.

Learn more:

Motor Vehicle Regulations

The Association is an active member of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and works closely with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in regard to proposed changes to commercial motor vehicle requirements. The Association places particular emphasis on ensuring that regulators and legislators understand the unique nature of “local route” trucking operations.

Noise & Congestion

The Association frequently provides comments and information to local governments considering revisions to noise ordinances that would affect the waste and recycling industry. In some locations proposals to limit operations at night or in the early morning are introduced in response to concerns over noise from industry trucks. In many cases the noise turns out to have come from other sources. In addition, our ability to collect solid waste and recyclables at night or in the morning allows our trucks to use the streets when few cars are on them. This results in less traffic congestion and fewer truck emissions along with safer streets.

On-Board Recorders

The Association provided comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on the agency’s proposal to require electronic on-board recorders to verify compliance with hours of service requirements. Solid waste and recycling collection trucks currently follow local routes under the 100 air-mile rule. As a result, the operators use time cards instead of the more formal record of duty status (“driver logs”) to verify compliance.

The 2012 Federal Transportation Act, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” required the FMCSA to promulgate regulations requiring electronic on-board recorders for hours of service compliance for commercial motor vehicle operators. However, that law included a specific exemption for all local route vehicles.


Through privatization of solid waste collection, processing and disposal, communities save money, maximize efficiency and gain other useful benefits.

We know that many local governments face extraordinary budget challenges as revenues shrink and expenses rise. A logical response to these budget shortfalls is to reduce the cost and size of government by concentrating on providing critical municipal services such as police and fire protection. To achieve this, many cities are increasingly privatizing other activities for which the private sector is best prepared to provide improved service at a lower cost, increased efficiency and other community benefits. Waste collection, recycling and disposal are among the most prominent candidates for privatization. More communities are privatizing these vital services now than at any other time during the last two decades.

The National Waste & Recycling Association supports privatization, believing the private sector can provide solid waste services in the most efficient, low cost and environmentally prudent manner. We urge local governments that compete with the private sector in providing waste services to account for all of the costs of its service and allow for competition on a level playing field.

The City Council and Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, agreed to privatize Toledo’s refuse operations in an effort to reduce trash collection costs for the city, bringing privately operated waste services to more than 180,000 households in northwestern Ohio. Toledo’s mayor said the switch to a private hauler would save $2.8 million in the city budget.
The City Council and Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, agreed to privatize Toledo’s refuse operations in an effort to reduce trash collection costs for the city, bringing privately operated waste services to more than 180,000 households in northwestern Ohio. Toledo’s mayor said the switch to a private hauler would save $2.8 million in the city budget.

Despite myths suggesting that privatizing solid waste collection and management erodes the quality of these services, the cities with the highest recycling rates in America, Seattle (picture above) and San Francisco, have fully privatized recycling services.
Despite myths suggesting that privatizing solid waste collection and management erodes the quality of these services, the cities with the highest recycling rates in America, Seattle (picture above) and San Francisco, have fully privatized recycling services.

Learn more:

Product Stewardship

Product stewardship laws attempt to make manufacturers and retailers responsible for end-of-life management of their products. To achieve this, they allow the creation of “product stewardship organizations” comprised of a specific product’s manufacturers and retailers. These groups then arrange for the collection of those products for recycling. This kind of organization is a “monopsony”, which means it is the sole buyer of services. As such, it can pay what it wants for those services. In addition, local governments lose their traditional control over recycling in their communities and recycling companies lose their ability to compete in a free market. 

Initial product stewardship laws, covering batteries, were adopted in Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont in 1991. It wasn’t until 2004 that a renewed interest in product stewardship emerged with the passage of an electronics recycling law in Maine and a mercury automobile switch law in New Jersey.  Today, 32 states have product stewardship laws. Most of these laws cover mercury-containing products such as mercury thermostats, mercury automobile switches, electronic products, fluorescent lights and batteries. Other products covered by product stewardship laws include paint, carpets and mattresses.

Advocates generally cite three core objectives for product stewardship. Their goals are to:

  • Internalize post-consumer management costs in a product’s cost.
  • Provide incentive for manufacturers to design their products for increased recyclability and reduced use of toxic components.
  • Lower solid waste management costs for local governments.

Due to the relatively recent implementation of many of these laws, little data exists concerning their cost or effectiveness. This has not stopped scholarly inquiry, including a 2011 paper written by Chaz Miller for the American Bar Association. The paper sets out to examine the status of product stewardship laws and their ability to meet their stated objectives: "From Birth to Rebirth: Will Product Stewardship Save Resources?"

The National Waste & Recycling Association is pleased to share its recent policy on product stewardship. The Association urges caution in moving forward with new product stewardship legislation. Before placing stewardship requirements on a product, it is necessary to ensure that a given law will provide an overall environmental benefit through a life cycle conducted by the state legislature. Local or state governments should consider the cost and potential effectiveness of a new recycling program compared with the cost and effectiveness of existing programs. Any product stewardship organization established by state law should not be exempt from antitrust provisions and must operate with complete transparency.

The United States boasts an effective and dynamic recycling and solid waste management infrastructure.  A product stewardship organization’s members are quite experienced in making and selling products, yet they have little or no experience in recycling those products. If a product stewardship organization does not competitively bid for service providers, or establishes an inflexible take-back program that denies the manufacturer or service provider’s ability to be innovative, consumers will be faced with an unnecessarily expensive program. Product stewardship organizations must honor existing collection or processing contracts or other legal relationships between recyclers and local governments. Finally, the process of selecting service providers must be fully transparent and should follow state and local public procurement requirements.

Railroad Transfer

Before congressional action in 2008, an oversight in federal law exempted solid waste management facilities located at rail yards from state solid waste permitting procedures. This exemption was part of a broader historical effort to ensure that interstate railroads were free to operate without being subject to local regulations. Unfortunately, at the time no one realized that solid waste management facilities would not be subject to the same permitting requirements as competing, non-rail yard facilities. The lack of regulatory oversight gave these unregulated facilities an economic advantage and did nothing to guarantee protection of public health or the environment.

As a result, the National Waste & Recycling Association, along with a coalition of local and state governments and public sector solid waste managers, have partnered in mandating the same requirements for unregulated facilities as those governing all solid waste management facilities. The Association filed comments with the House Railroad Subcommittee on the public health and environmental problems caused by the siting of unpermitted/unregulated transfer stations at rail facilities. For an overview of the legal and environmental problems formerly posed by these facilities see "Collision Course: Rail Transportation and the Regulation of Solid Waste."

With the passage of the Clean Railroads Act in 2008, the Surface Transportation Board (the federal agency responsible for railroads) is preparing procedures to ensure that these facilities become fully regulated. A coalition of public and private sector groups, of which the Association was a part, filed comments on the STB proposal.


What is recycling?

Recycling is now happening all around us – every day, everywhere. In the United States, the collection and processing of used products into materials that can be used to manufacture new products is now a common practice (and becoming more so around the world). Recycling, essentially, is making the old new again – today’s newspaper becomes the same material for next month’s headlines; your soda can has a second life as a new beverage container.

Recyclables are collected at the curbside in front of homes, dropped in a public recycling bin (often found alongside trash bins), or taken to drop-off or buy-back centers. Ten states also have deposit return programs encouraging the return of used beverage containers.

MRFs – material recovery facilities – have a wide array of highly-specialized equipment designed to sort and separate different kinds of recyclables, turning them into raw materials for manufacturers. Most MRFs process several different grades of paper, glass bottles, aluminum, steel cans and plastic containers. Organic waste also has a secondary use! At both the home and municipal levels, yard waste and food waste are being composted to create nutrient-rich soil additives or sent to anaerobic digestion facilities to create energy and a digestate product that can be composted or used as animal bedding.

How much do we recycle? What do we recycle?

According to EPA data, in 2012 Americans recycled 34.5 percent of our trash, or 87 million tons. This represents a dramatic increase from 1960 when only 5.6 million tons or 6.4 percent was recycled.

In 2012, lead acid batteries had the highest recycling rate at 95.9 percent, while paper and paerperboard had the highest recycling tonnage at 44.36 million tons. For more information on solid waste generation and recycling rates, see the U.S. EPA’s "Municipal Solid Waste In the United States: 2011 Facts and Figures."

What are the costs of recycling?

When a recycling program is started, the initial infrastructure investment causes local solid waste management costs to increase. These start-up costs include buying recycling collection trucks and hiring labor; buying processing equipment and hiring sorters/technicians; and creating educational and publicity materials. Sometimes the overall solid waste management costs go down after a recycling program is thoroughly integrated into the local system, but it is not unusual for the overall cost to remain higher with a recycling program.


The Association is a strong supporter of workplace safety and frequently comments on proposed OSHA rules and policies. We meet with OSHA and DOT officials frequently to discuss regulatory and enforcement issues.

Source Reduction

Source reduction (also called waste prevention) focuses on finding innovative, cost-saving solutions to reuse or otherwise manage materials, ensuring they never again enter the waste stream. Manufacturers are constantly finding ways to substitute lighter materials for heavier materials. They do this to lower manufacturing and distribution costs, but in doing so, they create less waste. Reusable beverage containers and mulching lawnmowers are good examples of source reduction innovations. Source reduction can also include altering designs, manufacturing, purchase, or use of materials before they enter the municipal solid waste management system.

Although the “Great Recession of 2008-09 is blamed for the overall decline in the growth of the waste stream, in fact this recession obscured dynamic changes in the materials we use in our daily lives (also called the “evolving ton”), the affect of source reduction, and zero waste efforts by manufacturers and retailers. Paper consumption was 17 million tons lower in 2011 than in 2010 as we moved from transmitting knowledge by paper to using electronic media instead. Those paper losses are permanent, and are likely to increase. Other changes during this period included a 6.3 million ton increase in the use of plastics.


The Association supports tax incentives for renewable energy source such as landfill gas and advocates before Congress and state legislatures on behalf of this renewable energy source.

Zero Waste

As a country, we are entering the next phase of solid waste management. In the last two decades, Americans have been leading a revolution in trash management. Almost 30 years ago, EPA helped launch this new era with municipal solid waste landfill criteria ensuring that waste was managed in the most environmentally responsible manner possible. The criteria worked! Through regulations like these, society won the public health battle with waste disposal, while also making huge strides in recycling. Two decades ago, multi-material residential curbside programs were still relatively uncommon, but today they are the norm. In 1990 we recycled or composted 33 million tons; in 2011 it was 87 million tons.

While protecting public health will always be a priority for American waste and recycling companies, we are now able to be a resource management industry and focus our innovations on the concept of “zero waste.”

What is zero waste?

Zero waste means many things to different people. To consumers, zero waste can mean maximizing recycling efforts, resulting in less trash reaching landfills. To waste collection and recycling service providers, zero waste means finding and using the most cost effective, environmentally sound and efficient methods for collecting, processing, marketing and disposing society's waste. To product manufacturers, zero waste can mean a complete review of manufacturing processes. And for government, zero waste is a goal for the future that requires realistic planning and investment.

America has begun its transition to a zero waste society. Certainly, trash will be produced in the future, but with the goal of zero waste ahead, we can push to progressively reduce our waste (and consumption). The members of the National Waste & Recycling Association support the country’s transition toward this goal.

The objective of zero waste is to reduce the waste stream to the point at which no commercially achievable economic value exists for the remaining residue. Experienced, knowledgeable environmental services companies with proven and permitted collection, processing and disposal activities will lead the way in this transformation.

Why take a position?

The National Waste & Recycling Association is stepping forward to facilitate a discussion among the public, waste collection service providers, customers, manufacturers, government and consumers on how we can collectively work toward zero waste. The Association firmly believes that the responsibility for cooperative action rests within each of us, and that now is the time to move forward and invest in a zero waste future.

Transition to zero waste

Our industry has been the leader in innovating sophisticated technology to increase both the amount and commercial value of recyclable materials from our waste stream through properly permitted and operated materials recycling facilities (MRFs). For the material currently sent to disposal, we are extracting methane gas from landfills and converting it into clean, renewable energy. We are also producing alternate fuels to power our vehicle fleets. Our industry is also developing new technologies to further utilize the largely organic waste stream that presently has no commercially achievable economic value.

We recognize that the transition to zero waste will not be easy or swift. It took 21 years for America's recycling and composting rate to more than double from 16.2 percent in 1990 to 34.7 percent in 2011 Increasing that rate further poses unique challenges. Manufacturers, government, service providers and consumers must work together to progress towards this goal - we believe it is a goal worth achieving.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is proud of its environmental credentials. As "Environmentalists. Every Day." we look forward to working with state and local governments, manufacturers and our customers to reduce the size of the waste stream and increase the size of the recovery stream. Only by working together will we one day achieve a zero waste future.

Legal Issues

For more information about legal issues, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Flow Control

Flow control refers to state or local laws that dictate where waste materials should be disposed or processed.

Numerous rulings have been made on the topic of flow control, each presenting new and unique policy insights on previous cases. The two most significant rulings on the issue are the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in C&A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown (1994) and United Haulers Assoc., Inc., v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (2007). In Carbone, a New York municipality’s law requiring haulers to bring waste and recyclables originating in the town to privately-owned and operated facilities, was challenged. The court ruled that the town’s flow control law, which was discriminating against interstate commerce in favor of local business, was invalid. Twenty-three years later in the United Haulers case, however, it was ruled that two upstate New York counties’ flow control laws did not violate the “dormant” Commerce Clause, because the designated disposal facilities were publicly-owned and operated. This decision narrowed the legal principles set forth by the Supreme Court in its Carbone decision. These two decisions highlight the continued legal discussion on flow control in the United States.

For more information on the United Haulers Case, see below:

For more information on the Carbone case, see below:

In December 2013, a federal appeals court upheld a South Carolina county’s flow control law. Sandlands C&D LLC v. Horry County (4th Cir. 2013). This decision is the first reported federal appellate court case to address flow control in the dormant Commerce Clause context since the United Haulers decision. In Sandlands, the flow control law directed waste to government-owned and operated disposal facilities.

Other flow control-related cases:

NSWMA v. City of Dallas (2013): A federal district court in Texas issued a permanent injunction against Dallas’ flow control law on constitutional and state law grounds.

  • JWJ Industries v. Oswego County (2008): A federal court in New York ruled Oswego County’s 2008 Flow Control Law was unconstitutionally vague and eventually granted a preliminary injunction in April 2012.
  • Lebanon Farms Disposal, Inc. v County of Lebanon, No. 06-3473 (3d Cir. Aug. 6, 2008). In August 2008, a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania reversed a lower court decision that had struck down a flow control law, and remanded the case for analysis under the Pike balancing test.
  • See Quality Compliance Services, Inc. v. Dougherty Cty., No. 05-CV-19 (M.D. Ga.) (Mar. 31, 2008). In March 2008, a federal district court in Georgia, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's United Haulers decision, upheld a flow control law directing waste to county-owned and county-operated landfills.
  • NSWMA v. Delaware County Solid Waste Authority, No. 08-CV-1170 (E.D. Pa). A federal district court in Pennsylvania enjoined a county flow control law directing waste to a county-owned but privately-operated transfer station.
  • NSWMA v. Daviess County, 424 F.3d 898 (6th Cir. 2006), the appeals court firmly stated it "respectfully disagrees with the Second Circuit on the proposition that Carbone lends support for the public-private distinction drawn by that court." The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Sixth Circuit's decision, and the lawsuit was dismissed.

Non-Discriminatory Flow Control Exception
These decisions hold that if the process by which local governments selected specific service providers or facilities is non-discriminatory, than requiring the use of these providers or facilities does not violate interstate commerce.

Market Participant Exception
These decisions consider whether a government entity is a "market participant" instead of a regulator, so that the government entity is not subject to the "strict scrutiny" test set forth in the Carbone decision and other cases.

Intrastate Flow Control Exception
These decisions consider whether government laws directing all solid waste to specific in-state facilities, but allowing such waste to be processed at out-of-state facilities, implicate the Commerce Clause.

Economic Flow Control Exception
These decisions consider whether using market forces like fees to encourage sending solid waste to favored facilities violates the Commerce Clause or applicable state solid waste laws.

  • Waste Connections of Nebraska, Inc. v. City of Lincoln, 269 Neb. 855 (May 27, 2005) ($7 per ton tax imposed on all haulers who tip waste in Nebraska "is not a burden on interstate commerce")
  • Oxford Associates v. Waste System Authority of Eastern Montgomery County, 271 F.3d 140 (3d Cir. 2001) ($76.25 per ton generator fee "offends the Commerce Clause")
  • City of Paterson v. Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, 164 N.J. 270 (2000) (striking down NJ waste fees imposed to incentivize use of favored waste facilities, on state law grounds)

Interstate Transport of Solid Wastes

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the "dormant" Commerce Clause, stating that legislation with discriminatory intent or effect will be found unconstitutional, prohibits states or local governments from banning or placing special burdens on out-of-state waste.

These four court cases highlight this significant issue for our industry:

The National Waste & Recycling Association is frequently a party to such cases or files amicus briefs in support of its members. For example, in April 2004 the Association filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging several new Michigan laws seeking to reduce the amount of out-of-state solid waste disposed in the state’s landfills. The Association alleged these laws discriminated against out-of-state waste and especially waste originating in Canada, in violation of the Commerce Clause and the Foreign Affairs Power. Similarly, in September 2003, we filed a lawsuit challenging a Wayne County, MI, law prohibiting landfills from accepting waste from communities that do not have a beverage container law as it exists in Michigan NSWMA v. Wayne County, 303 F. Supp.2d 835 (E.D. Mich. 2004).

The National Waste & Recycling Association and its members have also successfully struck down discriminatory state laws in Wisconsin and Virginia:

Other Important Solid Waste Legal Cases

NSWMA v. Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Mgmt. Dist. (Ohio 2009): Ohio Supreme Court reversed the appeals court decision that the Ohio EPA was necessary party in challenge to waste district’s landfill rules.

City of Los Angeles v. County of Kern, No. 07-56564 (9th Cir. 2009): Ruling plaintiffs did not have prudential standing to challenge, on dormant Commerce Clause grounds, Kern County’s prohibition on the disposal of sludge originating outside the county, including outside California.

National Parks & Conservation Assoc. v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., No. 05-56814 (9th Cir. 2009): Upheld the district court decision blocking a proposed landfill in southern California near Joshua Tree National Park.

Trans Rail America Inc. v. Enyeart (Ohio 2009): Ohio Supreme Court ruled that state agency can order local agency to review pending landfill application.

Town of New Hartford v. CRRA (Conn. 2009): Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed $36 million award to towns because state solid waste agency was unduly enriched by an Enron-related settlement and refused to reduce tip fees at state disposal facilities.

Missouri v. St. Louis Cty., No. ED-91677 (MO. App. 2008): Missouri appeals court ruled that county does not have authority to ignore two-year notice requirement before implementing a solid waste collection franchise.