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Garbology 101: Getting a Grip on Waste

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Science  10 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6095, pp. 668-672
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6095.668

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Summary

Myriad contentious issues surround how waste is collected, processed, and ultimately disposed of in developed nations. Experts have varying views, for instance, on the best way to economically sift recyclables out of the municipal solid waste stream, the pros and cons of burning trash to produce electricity, and how to account for the hidden costs to a society of managing waste. Meanwhile, the once-radical idea of generating zero waste has shifted from the streets to corporate boardrooms, sparking further debate over whether such approaches will actually reduce global demand for important raw materials. The good news: Such discussions are prompting a closer look at what we throw away—and where it ends up.