20th Century to Today
It was during this time that Europe, the US and other parts of the developed world started to develop organized waste collection and landfilling programs. A number of solid waste management regulations were imposed. In more recent history, waste management technologies were improved and continue to evolve.
In the early 20th century, many small to medium-sized US towns developed piggeries. The pigs were fed fresh or cooked garbage. According to an expert, 75 pigs would consume 1 ton of garbage per day. Even after landfills were developed, these piggeries still operated on farms in the US. According to a 1930 survey of 557 American cities, 40 percent of them still fed garbage to pigs, even though well-documented evidence showed that there was a correlation between trichinosis and garbage fed pigs. The US public health departments prohibited the use of raw garbage as animal feed shortly after the slaughter of approximately 400,000 hogs in the mid-1950s. This was a measure taken to prevent the spread of disease.
By 1910, almost 80 percent of American cities had some form of organized solid waste collection. The earliest organized waste collection was men collecting garbage with horse or mule-drawn carts. Garbage trucks started to develop once the automobile was invented.
By the 1920s, a popular waste disposal method was landfilling. At this time wetlands near cities were used as landfills for garbage, ash and dirt. Modern landfills are substantially different from those earlier landfills. Today landfills are built with safety and environmental protection in mind; are carefully engineered and monitored; are managed to minimize odors and pests; and create sources of energy.
In 1970 the Clean Air Act was passed in the US, which led to the closing of many earlier constructed incinerators. Today’s waste-to-energy plants include pollution controls that reduce gas emissions to minute levels and remove particles. These plants also produce enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes.
In recent history, other technologies were developed by the solid waste industry. Recycling is one of them. Today, recycling is a fully developed technology. Since 2007, over 34 percent of American municipal solid waste is recycled or composted. This conserves vital resources and energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps protect our air and water quality.
During the last century, industrialized countries develop more professional methods for scavenging, which include organized recycling and waste-based energy production.
Today, the solid waste industry continues to lead developments to address important environmental concerns. At present, climate change is the most dominant global environmental issue and the solid waste industry is currently leading efforts to help address this issue. The industry has also developed a process that lets us capture greenhouse gas from landfills to use as a source of renewable and sustainable energy. This reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.