Based on a comprehensive review of the literature, the multielemental techniques of inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP), x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) have been compared for the determination of antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium and zinc in hazardous waste matrices. These particular elements were chosen because they are on the list for classifying a waste as hazardous or on EPA's Priority Pollutant list. Each technique is discussed with respect to theory, anticipated interferences, correction techniques, precision, accuracy, detection limits and cost. This literature review indicates that there has not been sufficient analytical work on complex matrices to fully compare these three techniques for many of the priority pollutant elements. For those elements with a sufficient database to compare precision and accuracy by the three techniques (arsenic, barium, chromium, lead, nickel and zinc), ICP has the advantages of lower detection limits and higher precision, whereas XRF may be very useful as a preliminary screening technique due to its ability to provide rapid semi-quantitative data even at trace levels. XRF and ICP have significant cost advantages over INAA, requiring much less capital expenditure and lower labor costs.