What is City Waste Management?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

City waste management, also known as urban waste management, is an approach to waste management which deals with waste on a city-wide level. It is usually administered by a department of sanitation or a department of environmental health, and it includes a number of different waste management initiatives ranging from citizen education to community hazardous materials collection.

Sometimes cities are responsible for managing an area's waste management.
Sometimes cities are responsible for managing an area's waste management.

Cities generate a great deal of waste. One part of city waste management is a focus on waste reduction. Reducing waste is better for the environment, and it is also better for the city, because it reduces costs associated with waste management. Reduction programs include everything from promoting reuse of things in lieu of disposal to laws mandating how much packaging can be used on products made and sold in the city.

A waste management facility typically handles recycling.
A waste management facility typically handles recycling.

On the household level, waste management concerns include garbage, material which can be recycled, and organic waste such as lawn clippings and food scraps. Additionally, homes also generate human waste which must be considered as part of a waste management plan. Businesses in a city can generate radioactive, toxic, electronic, and biowaste, and generate waste on a much larger scale than individuals.

Many city waste management plans require people to sign up with waste management companies if they want to live or do business in the city. This is designed to ensure that a disposal method is in place for any waste which someone could generate. For example, residents may need a garbage collection contract and a water and sewer contract, while businesses might need to demonstrate that in addition to garbage and sewer contracts, they also have agreements with specialty companies which handle high-risk waste such as medical sharps.

City waste management also includes initiatives such as e-waste amnesties, in which people can turn in electronic waste without a penalty, along with periodic waste collection initiatives. Having a hazardous materials collection in a residential neighborhood every week, for example, would be impractical, but having a monthly collection would allow people to safely dispose of things like paint, batteries, and so forth.

Many cities handle waste management issues by running their own waste management utilities as a nonprofit public service. Others may contract waste management services to outside companies, some of which are run as for-profit initiatives. These companies can negotiate very favorable contracts, relying on the fact that cities cannot afford interruptions in city waste management services, so events like strikes and walkouts are avoided at all costs.

Some cities offer home pickup of sharps containers through a third party medical waste company.
Some cities offer home pickup of sharps containers through a third party medical waste company.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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