Waste Management

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Although our industrial society produces a variety of solid wastes and waste waters, over the past 50 years we have made progress in disposing of them safely in landfills, by incineration, and in underground injection wells. Many wastes are also increasingly recycled or reused.


An old computer recycling farm in the Midwest. Image Credit: USGS/Photo by Carl Orazio.

An essential goal of waste management is to dispose of waste without contaminating water, soil, and air. Many wastes are disposed of safely in engineered landfills, by incineration, and in underground injection wells. All of these processes of waste management are monitored and regulated closely.[1] Waste management can also provide economic opportunity: generating energy from landfill gas; recycling to produce new materials from used plastic, paper, glass, or metal; or composting to produce rich soil from yard and food waste.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute

Case Studies & Factsheets

Cover of Geoscientists in Petroleum and the Environment

Introduction Geoscience – the study of the Earth – underpins our understanding of the many intersections between petroleum and the environment, from the search for resources to the study of air pollutants. Without the work of geoscientists, we would have neither the energy system nor the...

Cover of AGI Factsheet 2017-001 - Recycling as a source of mineral commodities

Why Recycle? Recycling saves energy, money, materials, and natural resources, while reducing landfill use. It supplements the national supply of essential materials, reducing dependence on imports. As more minerals and materials become critically important - particularly in advanced technologies -...

Cover of Using Produced Water

Opportunities and Concerns in Using Produced Water Produced water is natural groundwater that is extracted along with oil and gas. It is commonly salty and mixed with oil residues,1 so it must be either disposed of or treated and reused. About 2.5 billion gallons of produced water are extracted...

Cover of Non-Fuel Products of Oil and Gas

Introduction Oil and natural gas are complex mixtures of chemicals. Oil refineries and gas processing plants extract the organic compounds that make the best fuels for transportation, heating, and electricity generation: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, and methane. Other chemicals...

Cover of Induced Seismicity from Oil and Gas Operations

Manmade Earthquakes Any activity that significantly changes the pressure on or fluid content of rocks has the potential to trigger earthquakes. This includes geothermal energy production, water storage in large reservoirs, groundwater extraction, underground injection of water for enhanced oil...

Cover of Spills in Oil and Natural Gas Fields

Introduction Oilfield spills can harm wildlife and pose a risk to human health if they reach fresh water sources or contaminate soil or air. The enormous size of the oil and gas industry and the huge volumes of oil and produced water that are handled, stored, and transported result in thousands of...