Risks have been addressed from at least 5 different approaches, including environmental, health, occupational, chemical and technological standpoints, each using their own definitions, which limits the design of public policies focused on improving MSW management. The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the concept of risk is used in different investigations in the field of MSW. The factors that influence these concepts are also determined, including the spatial context of risk assessments. The search focused on 73 scientific papers from journal pages to specialized search engines, such as Google Scholar or ScienceDirect, published between 1970 and 2020. Throughout this period, many changes, mostly brought about by economic and health crises, can be seen. A significant risk increase is observed in the 1980s with a marked rebound in the early 1990s, which continues throughout the following decades. Risks increased drastically in parallel with unemployment and mortality in 2020, due to the global pandemic, which modified waste composition, since protective equipment against coronavirus was mixed with household waste.