Green Lancaster header displaying a picture of an Amish buggy, and corn field, horses in a field, cows being milked, and windmills.


















In order to understand what Sustainable Waste Management is, we must first break down each word by its definition.

Sustainable – to sustain; the act of adding a resource as it is being taken away.

Waste Management – to manage waste that is created personally or municipally.

Now as we put these words and definitions together we can identify that:

  • Sustainable Waste Management is the act of managing waste with sustainability incorporated within its management plan design.


In a more detailed definition, Sustainable Waste Management is:

  • The act of minimizing the amount of waste that is produced
  • Making the best use of the waste that is produced
  • Minimizing any immediate and future risk of pollution from waste management practices.


Currently, it is recorded that in the U.S., we as consumers throw away 4.6 lbs of waste per day per person, accumulating to be a whopping 251 million tons each day. Landfill capacity is decreasing.

The number of landfills is decreasing which means that the cost of waste-transportation is increasing.

Sustainable Waste Management initiatives help prevent the consistent destruction of the earth by reducing what is being consumed, recycling what is already used and reusing recycled materials.

This helps to decrease the amount of natural resources used daily. This is reason enough to incorporate sustainable ways to manage one’s waste.

Here are just a few easy ways that we as consumers can do to help sustain our world:

  • Stop buying plastic bottles
  • Create a compost for food disposal
  • Stop wasting water in and outside of your home
  • Refrain from purchasing items that have a lot of packaging
  • Print less paper – save more trees


Other common habits to break as consumers:

  • Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth
  • Recycle basic items
  • Adjust the thermostat by a few degrees


Some goals for us as consumers:

  • Replace old light bulbs with CFLs
  • Take reusable bags to the store with you
  • Buy and use rechargeable batteries
  • Own a compost pile



  • Reduce - Reuse - Recycle



It is so important that we as consumers make efforts to reduce the amount of waste that we produce. There is a significant decrease in the amount of space available for land filling and it is getting increasingly expensive to transport waste to designated waste facilities.

By reducing our waste production, our land will be preserved and our resources will have a lesser depletion rate.

Reduce your carbon footprint within the environment by cutting back in what you consume daily, including energy, water and solid waste.


The act of reduction affects three major areas:

  • Energy – the consumption of energy releases carbon into the environment. By developing alternative, renewable energies help to reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources.
  • Water – Drinkable water is in very short supply. By reducing water use, one is increasing the amount of drinkable water supply.
  • Solid Waste – Easiest way to reduce solid waste is to reduce your consumption of daily products. Remember to be cautious of what you buy and what you throw away.

There are many ways to incorporate reduction plans within your household and business and here are just a few helpful tips on how to do so.


Reduce energy use by a few main areas, stated as follows:

Locate air leaks and fix them

  • Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less


Heating/cooling equipment

  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces at least once a month
  • Make sure warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.


  • Use three-way lamps
  • Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit or a timer so they will turn off during the day
  • For spot lighting, consider CFLs with reflectors.


Reduce water usage by focusing on the following areas of water conservation:

  • Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices; turn off when storms are approaching
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees
  • Adjust your dishwasher according to the size of the load.
  • Install a hot water recirculation device; one can save up to 2-3 gallons of water for each shower taken.
  • Reuse fish tank water on your household plants.
  • Insulate your water pipes; you’ll get hot water faster and avoid wasting water.



The most common and cost-effective way to incorporate reduction plans in one’s life is by reducing household waste and recycling.

According to the EPA, about 75% of what is found in the average garbage can is recyclable and our national recycling rates stays at an approximated 14 precent.



Reuse is the act of finding an additional and alternative uses for a product to prolong its usage. People reuse items almost every day without even realizing it.

There are many ways to reuse common items but it takes innovation and thought to really discover alternative uses for some items. The most important factor to consider when reusing an item is creativity.

One’s own creativity provides the opportunity to reuse items for new and innovative purposes.

Here are a few items that can be commonly reused and ways to do so:

  • ALUMINUM FOIL - You can sharpen scissors by layering about seven pieces of foil and cutting through it with the dull scissors. Use a ball of spare foil to clean baked-on pots and pans. It works just as well as steel wool. Foil makes great gift-wrapping Children’s dress-up costumes.
  • PAPER BAGS - Cover textbooks Placemats made out of brown paper and crayons can be taken to restaurants and used as a drawing pad for children. Can be used as recycling collectors. Crumple paper bags to add textured paint applications to walls and furniture.
  • BABY FOOD JARS - Reuse to hold small candles Storage for small items like buttons, coins, etc. Used to hold homemade spice blends.
  • SOCKS Use for dusting or cleaning. Use as a heating pad by filling it rice or wheat and microwaving it for a few seconds. Fill the sock with leftover soap pieces and use it in the washing machine to wash delicates.


Another great way to reuse materials is to create a compost pile.

The items that you add to your compost pile decompose to make nutrient-rich soil that can be added to one’s landscape. Composting decreases the amount of materials thrown away and also serves as a natural rich-soil creator.

Yard trimmings and food waste combined make up 24% of our nation’s municipal solid waste.

Composting can make a huge dent in one’s waste and produce a rich product that can be used to help maintain one’s yard, friends’ yards and can be sold at local farmer’s markets or garden centers.


In order to get a successful compost pile started, one must have all the right tools and supplies including:

  • A large container; bigger the better but keep it smaller than 3 feet by 3 feet.
  • A wheelbarrow; either steel or plastic, used for moving organics or carrying compos.
  • Water hoses; a good high quality flexible hose is recommended.
  • Sprayers; essential to keeping water from flooding the composting areas when watering layer.
  • A pitchfork; used to scoop compost.
  • Shovels; used for digging in compost.


What to compost:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Lawn clippings including leaves, branches, plants and weeds
  • Shredded paper or newspaper
  • Straw or hay
  • Tea leaves and coffee grounds

What NOT to compost:

  • Meat scraps
  • Fatty trash
  • Vegetable or other cooking oils
  • Sawdust or large amounts of wood ashes


For an even more specific look at the various items available for composting, according to, here is a breakdown of the items by meal and what will most likely be found in your kitchen.


  • Apple cores
  • Banana peels
  • Toast
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Oatmeal
  • Outdated yogurt
  • Stale or soggy breakfast cereal
  • Tea bags and grounds
  • Soy milk
  • Watermelon rinds


  • Brown paper bags
  • Chocolate cookies
  • Freezer-burned fruits
  • Fruit salad
  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Peanut and other nut shells
  • Pickles
  • Popcorn Pumpkin seeds
  • Stale potato chips


  • Artichoke leaves
  • Cooked rice
  • Corncobs
  • Fish scraps (such as shrimp, crab, and lobster shells)
  • Freezer-burned vegetables
  • Jell-O
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Moldy Cheese
  • Old Pasta
  • Olive Pits
  • Onion skins
  • Pie crust
  • Potato peelings
  • Spoiled canned fruits and vegetables
  • Stale bread and bread crust
  • Tofu
  • Tossed salads with no dressing


  • Cardboard cereal boxes
  • Expired flower arrangements
  • Grocery receipts
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Matches (paper or wood)
  • Old spices Paper napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Wood chips and ashes
  • Wooden toothpicks


It is important to keep your compost healthy and efficient. In order to do so, one must:

Aerate the compost: by rotating his or her compost on a consistent basis

Monitor moisture: by increasing water usage in the summer and decreasing it in the winter

Balance the compost: by keeping your materials evenly mixed; too much of any one material will slow down the composting process

According to the EPA website,

The benefits of composting are abundant and long-lasting. Some benefits include:

  • Improving the soil structure Increasing moisture infiltration and permeability to heavy soils; reducing erosion and runoffs Improving water-holding capacity; reducing water loss
  • Supplying a variety of macro- and micro-nutrients
  • Controlling or suppressing certain soil-borne plant pathogens
  • Supplying significant quantities of organic matter
  • Supplying beneficial micro-organisms to soils
  • Improving and stabilizing soil pH
  • Binding and degrading specific pollutants


Photo by Susanna Andress



Not to mention the fact that recycling perpetuates the productivity of items without depleting natural resources and using a lot of energy, there are many other reasons to recycle.

There is a finite amount of natural resources available for energy production and in order to manufacture items that we use everyday, these resources are constantly used. To help prevent resource depletion, recycling allows new products to be made without many repercussions.

There are many recyclable items that are thrown away each day and could be used to produce new items and materials that we want and need. It is my encouragement that by reading the following lists of recyclable items that you will begin to recycle them if you do not already.

There are many different recyclable materials that can be recycled to increase sustainability.

Photo by Susanna Andress


Those materials are divided into ten categories:

  • Electronics
  • Hazardous
  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Household
  • Garden
  • Automotive
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Construction

To break these categories down even further, here are some examples of what items would be within each category:

  • Electronics - CDs, DVDs, Cell Phones, Computer, Computer Monitors, Inkjet Cartridges, Office Machines, Televisions, VCR, Video Games
  • Hazardous - Explosives, Fire Extinguishers, Freon, Lead Medical Sharps, Mercury Paint, Paint Thinners, Pesticides, Pool Chemicals, Rechargeable and Single-Use Batteries, Smoke Detectors
  • Plastic - Number 4 Plastic LDPE, Number 6 Plastic Polystyrene, Number 7 Plastic, Plastic Bags, Plastic Bottles, Plastic Casing, PVC.
  • Paper Books, Brown Paper Bags, Cardboard, Catalogs, Computer Paper, Magazines, Mail, Newspaper, Paperboard, Phone Books, Wrapping Paper.
  • Household - Bicycle, Clothing and Textile, Cooking Oil, Eyeglasses, Furniture, Holiday Lights, Household Cleaners, Light Bulbs, Mattresses, Solid Waste Disposal, Toys. Garden Christmas Trees, Composting, Dirt, Fertilizers, Mulching
  • Automotive - Auto Bodies, Auto Parts, Car Batteries, Car Fluids, Fuel, Motor Oil, Oil Filters, Tires
  • Metal -Aerosol Can, Aluminum Can, Aluminum Foil Ferrous Metal, Metal Clothes Hangers,
  • Steel
  • Glass - Blue Glass, Brown Glass, Clear Glass, Glass Ornaments, Green Glass  Construction Brick, Carpet, Carpet Padding, Gypsum Drywall, linoleum, Pallets, Wood.

Photo by Susanna Andress



In many areas throughout the U.S., there are different ways to recycle and dispose of household and municipal waste. Curbside recycling serves almost half of the U.S. population.

Currently, according to the American Forest and Paper Association, 87% of the U.S. population (268 million people) has access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs.


Though all curbside programs differ, there are five main materials that are collected:

  • Aluminum
  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Steel

Photo by Susanna Andress

There are three different forms of curbside recycling:

  • Dual-Stream recycling
  • Single-Stream recycling
  • Pay-As-You-Throw 

Dual-Steam Recycling

Dual-stream recycling is the most popular form of curbside recycling and consists of using two separate bins; one containing paper items (newspaper, magazine, direct mail) and one containing other disposable materials.

Most of the communities that offer Dual-Stream recycling use special trucks that are divided in half. The workers unload the paper bin into one section of the truck and the other recyclables into the other section of the truck.

Single-Stream Recycling

The single-stream recycling method is growing in popularity but remains quite controversial. The method involves one large cart and all of the recyclable materials are comingled. This provides the incentive that households don’t have to separate anything.

The waste-haulers favor the single-stream approach because it involves less trucks and less pick-ups. It is predicted that comingled materials are more suspect to contamination.

Evidence does suggest that the single-stream method increases the quality of household recyclables. 

Pay-As-You-Throw Recycling

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) is a trash collection program that encourages curbside recycling. Residents that use the PAYT method are charged a specific rate for each trash bag.

Due to the fact that residents have to pay to dispose of their items, PAYT decreases waste production, increases recycling because it is free to recycle, and control of waste costs because residents have a direct effect on what they spend on their trash disposal. It is estimated that over 5,000 communities across the country currently use the PAYT method.






When consuming and recycling, it is important to know the difference between recycled-content products and recyclable products.

  • Recycled-content products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. This means that these products are made entirely or partially from material contained in the products you recycle (aluminum soda cans, newspapers, etc.).

There are currently more than 4,500 recycled-content products available and this estimate continues to increase.

  • Post-consumer content is a material that has served its intended use and instead of being disposed of it is being reused in a different product.

Items that would qualify as post-consumer content include jewelry.

  • Recyclable products can be collected and remanufactured into new products after they already been used. These products only benefit the environment if people recycle them after use.


Sustainable Waste Management is a part of the LEED certified green building design. There are many factors that need to be addressed when building a LEED certified green building.

Green building means taking appropriate steps to create buildings that are safe and healthy for people and that protect our environment. Green building can be defined as the convergence of three main goals:

  • Conserve natural resources
  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Improve indoor air quality

Benefits to Green Building include:

  • Improvement of design and construction practices so that the architecture will last longer, cost less to operate, and contribute to increasing productivity and better working environments for workers or residents
  • Protects natural resources and improves the construction environment so that eco-systems, people, enterprises and communities can thrive and prosper.

When designing a LEED certified green building it is important to keep 5 areas in mind:

  • Site
  • Water
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Innovation and Design
  • Materials and Resources

Sustainable Waste Management lies in the category of materials and resources and includes Construction Waste Management (CMW).

LEED-certified buildings are designed to do the following to increase sustainability:

  • Lower operating costs of the household or business and increase asset value
  • Reduce waste sent to landfills
  • Conserve energy and water
  • Be healthier and safer for residents, workers, or occupants
  • Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions
  • Qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives in hundreds of cities
  • Demonstrate an owner's commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.


There are many users of the LEED green building program to transform the building community to sustainability, not just builders. To name a few alternate users:

  • Architects
  • Real estate professionals
  • Facility managers
  • Engineers
  • Interior designers
  • Landscape architects
  • Construction managers
  • Lenders
  • Government officials

The US is not the only country where LEED projects are incorporated. Other countries including Canada, Brazil, Mexico and India also produce LEED-certified projects and buildings.

Currently, government owned occupied LEED buildings make up 29% of all LEED projects.

  • The Federal government has 310 certified projects and another 3535 pursuing certification.
  • State governments have 487 certified projects and 2006 pursuing certification.
  • Local governments have 732 certified projects and 3208 pursuing certification

With these statistics in mind, it is apparent to assume that LEED-certified building plans are here to stay and will shape the way architecture is constructed in the future.

LEED-certification has increasing gained popularity over the past decade or so and will continue to do so within our ever so changing technological world.

Also, LEED-certification is incorporated in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). One can become a member of the USGBC through local chapters. There are many benefits to becoming a member of the USGBC. For instance, as a USGBC member you will benefit from:

  • Sharing your skills with USGBC’s network of green building supporters
  • Access to USGBC educational and training resources and services
  • Connecting with your peers and community
  • Building your leadership and management skills
  • Contributing to the green building movement
  • Participating in local USGBC committees
  • Serving as a Leader



Photos provided by Rick Frescatore


Construction waste is excess materials that have accumulated due to the construction and renovation or demolition of architectural buildings.

All construction sites produce construction waste and its facilitators or managers are required to dispose of it in some way.

There are a few different ways to do so including transporting the waste to a waste facility to be sorted or sorting the waste at the site and transporting it to a recyclable resource facility.

CMW can be disposed of by two different techniques:

  • source separated
  • commingled



  • Value-added
  • More complex
  • Better quality
  • Higher recycling rates
  • More waste containers


  • Costly
  • Less complex
  • Logistics friendly
  • Less information to manage
  • Less waste containers


Chart provided by Susanna Andress



Recycling during construction costs extremely less; this provides more money for better quality building or other necessary renovations.

Construction waste management is not measured as well in most states but according to the EPA, 164,000,000 tons of waste comes from construction per year, it has risen 17% since 1998. 

Construction Waste consists of several different materials that have accumulated in the construction or destruction of architecture and landscapes.

The following is a list of the most common construction waste materials and their percentage according to most frequently produced.


Materials found in Construction Waste:

  • Rubble - 47%
  • Wood - 25%
  • Drywall - 10%
  • Roofing - 5%
  • Metals - 3%
  • Plastics - 3%
  • Others - 3%

Photos provided by Rick Frescatore


Only 20% of the 164,000,000 tons of waste produced each year is recycled.

It is recorded that 47% of the waste derives from the construction/renovation of architecture while 52% derives from the demolition of existing architecture.

However, almost all of the materials in construction waste can be recycled. For instance:

  • left-over drywall can be recycled and used as animal bedding or cat liter old
  • carpeting can be used to make plastics and yarn
  • roofing shingles can be recycled to make hot-patch road asphalt excess concrete is used for sub/base for other construction sites
  • excess wood is chopped up and used to make mulch
  • excess metals are used to make more metals
  • leftover paper/cardboard is used in paper-making
  • leftover ceiling tiles recovered from demolition sites can be used again to make new ceilings

Photos provided by Rick Frescatore


  • The cost of disposal is cheap enough without recycling.
  • Most recycling is due to a contract that specifies certain things be recycled. Geographic regions aren’t dense enough to transport recyclables.
  • Markets for the materials dictate their importance when sorting.


Yes, and currently:

  • The Federal Government does have construction guidelines
  • The Federal Government does have green initiatives in the area of construction
  • There is a waste characterization report that requires the characterization of waste materials and whether they were recycled or not
  • The Federal gGovernment is trying to make construction recycling more standardized and required


  • Waste classification requirements are different in most states because all waste is different.
  • Regulations give enough ambiguity in it to get inaccurate measurements.

Though this issue is currently being addressed and there are efforts to change it, it is important in identifying the true importance of managing construction waste.



  • Local market dynamics
  • Contractor/sub-contractor participation
  • Generic specifications
  • Non-recycling coordinating on site


  • Cost avoidance up to 30-60% less than land-filling
  • Conserving the harvesting of resources



Photos provided by Rick Frescatore


The following chart identifies some cost comparisons of construction sites that do recycle and sites that do not.


  • 21.769 tons of waste
  • $1,901,000 in cost
  • $87.00 per ton


  • 18,678 tons of waste
  • 548,000 in cost
  • 25.00 per ton

When meeting recycling goals, there are many factors that need to be addressed including:

  • Meeting documentation
  • Market specific resources
  • Coordinating waste deliverers
  • Meeting multiple quality
  • Checks and balances regarding efficiency

When creating a waste management plan it is important to:

  • Specify recycling goals
  • Assign responsibilities and roles
  • Meet document and record keeping requirements
  • Estimate quantities (pre construction)

Before you create a waste management plan, think about the following items:

  • Waste components
  • Ways to minimize waste
  • Consider reuse opportunities


  1. Find a convenient place to collect recyclable items. Most things come from the kitchen, making it a good spot to set up a recycling center. Assign containers for glass, plastic, and aluminum, use solid containers for less mess.
  2. Take leftover plastic bags back to grocery stores where they are collected and reused to make plastic lumber.
  3. Check the bottom of plastic items to identify what type of plastic they are.
  4. If the type is not recycled at your local center, consider ways to reuse the container.
  5. Save water and time when recycling cans and bottles.
  6. Recycle mail and reuse for scratch paper.
  7. Newspapers, magazines, and white paper can all be recycled as long as the paper is clean and dry.
  8. Recycle worn-out rechargeable batteries like those used in cell phones, computers, or power tools.
  9. Get family members involved in recycling and sort items on a daily basis.
  10. Print out a list of commonly recycled materials and refer to it.


  1. You'll increase the value of your home.
  2. You'll save money on your water bill.
  3. The enery savings will add up.
  4. Green homes are durable.
  5. You'll have better air to breathe.
  6. You'll get more done.
  7. Your project will create less waste.
  8. Green homes preserve their surroundings.
  9. Green homes are designed to be adaptable.
  10. Conserving resources is crucial.


  1. What is Sustainable Waste Management? The act of minimizing the amount of waste that is produced, making the best use of the waste that is produced, and minimizing any immediate and future risk of pollution from waste management practices.
  2. Why is it important to practice Sustainable Waste Management? Landfills are becoming few and far between. The cost of transportation of waste is increasing. Through sustainable waste management initiatives, we can prevent the consistent destruction of our earth and its natural resources.
  3. What are ways to manage waste with sustainability in mind? REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. Reduce the materials and waste that you produce. Reuse materials that can be used for alternative purposes. Recycle the materials that can be used for alternative purposes.
  4. Why should I reduce the products I consume and the waste I produce? It is so important that we as consumers make efforts to reduce the amount of waste that we produce. There is a significant decrease in the amount of space available for land filling and it is getting increasingly expensive to transport waste to designated waste facilities. By reducing our waste production, our land will be preserved and our resources will have a lesser depletion rate.
  5. Why should I reuse the materials I’ve already used for alternative purposes? Most of all, be creative. There are many different uses for materials that we throw away and we don’t even realize it. Think of ways the item that you are throwing away can be reused.
  6. Why should I recycle the materials I’ve already used? Recycling reducing the amount of new materials used in manufacturing. Resources are in decline and by recycling, we as consumers can help sustain earth and its our natural resources.
  7. What is a compost? A compost is an area designated to biodegradable materials [usually in one’s yard] that breakdown through time and provide a nutrient-rich product used as soil.
  8. What materials can go into a compost? Many items can go into a compost pile. To name a few: Fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, non-fatty foods, cardboard/newspaper, and matches.
  9. What areas are offered through curb-side recycling?Curb-side recycling is divided into three systems of recycling: Dual-stream recycling, Single-stream recycling and Pay-As-You-Throw recycling.
  10. What is Green Building? Green Building is the act of taking the appropriate steps to create architecture that is safe and healthy for occupants and that protect our environment.
  11. Why should Green Buildings be constructed? Green Buildings acquire three main goals: To conserve natural resources, increase energy efficiency and improve indoor air quality.
  12. What is Construction waste? Construction waste is excess materials that have accumulated through the construction or demolition of architecture
  13. What is Construction Waste Management? The act of managing construction waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling the materials that accumulated through the construction or demolition of architecture.
  14. What materials are in construction waste? There are several materials found in construction waste. The most common materials are: Rubble, Wood, Drywall, Metals, Plastics, and Roofing Materials.
  15. What are reasons that construction waste does not get recycled? There are several reasons why some construction waste doesn’t get recycled and a few of those reasons are: The cost of disposal is cheap enough without recycling, Most recycling is due to a contract that specifies that certain items be recycled, Geographic regions aren’t dense enough to transport recyclables and markets for the materials dictate their importance when sorting.
  16. What benefits will I gain from being a USGBC member? Specify recycling goals, Assign responsibilities and roles, Meet document and record keeping requirements, and Estimate quanitities (presconstruction)
  17. What are important things to remember when creating a waste management plan? There are many benefits to becoming a USGBC member and a few are listed as follows: Sharing your skills with USGBC’s network of green building supporters, Access to USGBC educational and training resources and services, Connecting with your peers and community, Building your leadership and management skills, Contributing to the green building movement, Participating in local USGBC committees and Serving as a chapter leader.



I’d like to take this time to give a special thanks to Rick Frescatore of FrescoGreen

for providing great information, sources, pictures and charts that allowed

me to create this interesting content.



This site was created by Susanna Andress at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

© 2010 Millersville University. All Rights Reserved.