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.

Basics

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

Latest News

Earth
(2017-05-18)
April 26, 2017 The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on April 26 to examine a discussion draft of a bill that would amend certain provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) to streamline management and licensing processes for nuclear waste disposal...
An earthquake-resistant pipeline crossing the San Andreas Fault at Cholame, California. Image Copyright © Michael Collier http://www.earthscienceworld.org/images
(2016-12-05)
On Thursday and Friday, December 1-2, the National Academies' Roundtable on Unconventional Hydrocarbons held a workshop on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Development: Legacy Issues, Induced Seismicity, and Innovations in Managing Risk. The meeting brought together experts from industry, academia, state...

Case Studies & Factsheets

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...

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GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: Making Produced Water More Productive; Image credit: USGS/ Doug Duncan
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Geoscience is essential to our understanding and management of produced water, an inevitable byproduct of oil and gas development. This course provides a scientific and regulatory background of produced water, how it is commonly disposed, what opportunities exist for the re-use of produced water...

GOLI Course: Induced Seismicity in the Mid-Continent; Image credit: USGS
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides information about induced seismic activity in the United States, specifically in the mid-continent. It includes information on mitigation planning, the state of seismic monitoring at the state level, and the challenges in communicating the science of the issue to the public...

Research Database Publications

Cover for GeoNote 18 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1991, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The disposal of storm water and snow melt from streets and parking lots is a recurring problem for urban planners and city engineers. In uninhabited areas, water sinks into the ground, is taken up by plants, evaporates, and flows downhill to streams and rivers. With urbanization, paved areas...
Cover of UR-80-22 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The purpose of this report is to summarize the geologic data, hydrologic data, and other site characteristics of the Vermilion City landfill. This information was compiled as a part of the Statewide Landfill Study.
Cover of OFR10-17 ; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2010, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The Johnson County Landfill in Shawnee, KS, is operated by Deffenbaugh Industries and serves much of metropolitan Kansas City. Refuse, which is dumped in large plastic-underlined trash cells covering several acres, is covered over with shale shortly after burial. The landfill waste, once it fills...
Cover for GeoNote 17 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1991, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
Agricultural injection wells, also known as drain wells, are principally used to dispose of runoff from gravity irrigation. They are drilled and constructed in much the same way as production wells. Their function, however, is to eliminate water by moving it into subsurface geological formations...
Cover of UR-80-10 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The purpose of this report is to summarize the geologic data, hydrologic data, and other site characteristics of the Huron City landfill. This information was compiled as a part of the Statewide Landfill Study.
Cover of UR-80-14 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The purpose of this report is to summarize the geologic data, hydrologic data, and other site characteristics of the Miedema City landfill. This information was compiled as a part of the Statewide Landfill Study.
Cover of UR-55 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1988, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
This report contains the results of an investigation conducted by the South Dakota Geological Survey for the city of Brookings to determine the suitability of a site for use as a municipal sanitary landfill. The study was financed by the city of Brookings and the state of South Dakota.
Cover of USGS_2015-3037; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Coal ash is a residual waste product primarily produced by coal combustion for electric power generation. Coal ash includes fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization products (at powerplants equipped with flue-gas desulfurization systems). Fly ash, the most common form of coal ash, is used...
Cover of UR-80-21 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The purpose of this report is to summarize the geologic data, hydrologic data, and other site characteristics of the Sioux Falls (Runge City) landfill. This information was compiled as a part of the Statewide Landfill Study.
Cover of UR-80-11 ; Source: South Dakota Geological Survey
1996, South Dakota Geological Survey (SDGS)
The purpose of this report is to summarize the geologic data, hydrologic data, and other site characteristics of the John Clements landfill. This information was compiled as a part of the Statewide Landfill Study.