Solid Waste Disposal in South Carolina

The state of South Carolina is in the south-east region of the USA, bordering North Carolina and Georgia as well as having Atlantic Ocean to its east, with its capital being Columbia.  

The Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling office of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has the responsibility of managing the state’s solid waste.

What is Waste Management?

Waste management is an environment and health friendly method of removing waste material (solid, liquid, gaseous or radioactive) from the source of its origin, with the ultimate objective of either disposing it or recycling it so as to extract recoverable resources. While specific mechanisms may vary based on the type of waste or the geography, respective municipal authorities manage disposal of non-hazardous waste material while generators of any commercial or industrial waste have the responsibility for that disposal.

Waste Management in South Carolina

Waste management responsibilities in South Carolina lie with multiple offices. S.C. DHEC Bureau of Land & Waste Management focuses on ensuring compliance with laws pertaining to the environment, with the objective of protecting human health and keeping the environment pollution-free. DHEC Center for Waste Minimization aims at providing assistance to companies operating in the state, for improving their environmental performance. Palmetto Pride is an anti-litter organization based in South Carolina. The state also runs a Radioactive Waste Disposal Program. Water & Waste-water office is focused on regulating liquid waste management services providers. Resource Conservation Challenge Program of the state promotes government, private agencies and educational institutes to save natural resources and improve financial performance by recycling and other waste management activities. Wastewise is a voluntary U.S. EPA program helping organizations reduce solid waste.

Solid Waste Disposal in South Carolina

Landfills and incinerators are typically used for solid waste management. Solid waste is buried under layers of earth in a landfill, and even thought they have to be technically impermeable, they produce leachate (toxic fluid produced when rainwater passes through refuge) containing heavy metals, pesticides and solvents that ultimately contaminate ground and drinking water. On the other hand, incinerators burn solid waste (especially healthcare waste), which emits toxic gases.

As a result, there has been active opinion to close or severely restrict operations of such landfills and incinerators in South Carolina, as also other states. In the last two decades, South Carolina has shut down one healthcare and two hazardous waste incinerators, one landfill and a nuclear dumping site. Further, according to the South Carolina state law, incinerators cannot burn more than 600 tons of solid waste per day, with exception being made only if they also produce energy. However, the state still has excess capacity to not only handle all of its own solid waste, but even treat that from nearby states of New Jersey, Massachusetts and others on the east coast.


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