Solid Waste & Sanitation

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Glossary of Terms

Solid Waste and Recycling Terminology

  • biodegradable: when a substance is able to be broken down by microorganisms into basic elements like carbon dioxide and water.
  • composting: a process that allows you to decompose some of your table scraps and yard waste. This is done by a layering process so everything decays into new soil.
  • conserve: to protect something from becoming overused or lost all together. Conservation is the wise use of natural resources to avoid wasting naturally occurring resources or using them up completely.
  • energy recovery: the creation of energy by burning solid waste materials.
  • decompose: to break down into component parts or basic elements; or to rot. Decomposition is an organic process necessary for the continuation of life since it creates essential nutrients that plants and animals need and use.
  • dump: an open unsanitary site for junk.
  • garbage: spoiled or waste food that is thrown away.
  • hazardous waste: poisonous waste such as paint, chemicals, lightbulbs, batteries, gasoline and electronics that can cause problems for living organisms or the environment.
  • litter: any waste material thrown or left in an inappropriate place.
  • landfill: a site where solid waste burial is controlled and managed.
  • leachate: a liquid that comes from solid waste that may be contaminated.
  • Materials recovery facility (MRF).  is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable for sale to the end-user manufacturers. It is important that therecyclables which come out of the MRF are clean, baled, properly sorted, weighted and relatively free of impurities.
  • natural resource: naturally occurring material such as soil, wood, air, water, oil or minerals. They are valuable to people, plants, and wildlife.
  • organic: created from living organisms.
  • pollution: harmful substances left in the environment, leading to a dirty, impure or unhealthy place.
  • recycle: collecting and reprocessing already manufactured materials for remanufacture either as the same thing or as part of a different product.
  • reduce: to lessen in amount, number or other quantity.
  • reuse: to extend the life of an item by using it again, repairing it, modifying it or creating new uses for it.
  • single stream: (also known as “commingled” or "single-sort") recycling refers to a system in which all paper, plastics, metals, and other containers are mixed in a collection truck. Then handled separately throughout the collection process. In single-stream, both the collection and processing systems are designed to handle this fully commingled mixture of recyclables, with materials being separated for reuse.
  • solid waste: all solid, semi-solid, liquid and gaseous wastes, including trash, garbage, yard waste, ashes, industrial waste, construction waste, and household discards such as appliances, furniture and equipment.
  • solid waste management: the controlling, handling and disposal of all solid waste. One goal of solid waste management is to reduce waste to the least amount possible.
  • trash: material considered worthless, not necessary or offensive that is usually thrown away.
  • transfer station: is a building or processing site for the temporary deposition of waste, rather it be garbage, recycling, vegetative or construction. Transfer stations are often used as places where local waste is dump and transported in larger volumes to the end use processing location.
  • White goods: Appliances that can be collected and processed for scrap metal.