The Waste Management Hierarchy

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Waste Management Hierarchy indicates and prioritizes the way we need to manage the waste we generate. It is usually displayed diagrammatically using a pyramid that consists of five steps-options.

The five options of waste management hierarchy are presented below in order of preference.

1. Prevent and Reduce

Waste prevention and reduction means cutting down the amount of waste you generate. It can also be used for reduction of hazardous content of that waste and therefore reduction of its impact on the environment.

The principle of waste prevention is simple: the less waste you generate the less resources you consume and the less materials end up in landfills. Undoubtedly, waste prevention is a very good way to lower your human impact on Earth.

2. Reuse

Reuse is completely different to recycling. With reuse, something is used again either for its original purpose or for a different function. In recycling, items are broken down to provide raw materials for the manufacture of new products.

In case reuse does not involve any reprocessing it can save time, resources, energy and money. For the cases that reprocessing takes place, apart from generating jobs and contributing to the economy, it can offer quality products in lower prices or for free to organizations and people with limited means.

Waste management hierarchy

3. Recycle

Recycling is the process that takes used materials and reprocesses them into substances, materials or new products. The new materials may be of the original or other purposes.

Main advantage of recycling is that it prevents disposal of potentially useful materials, reducing in that way emissions, energy consumption and depletion of natural resources.

Composting of biodegradable waste is also considered recycling. On the contrary recycling does not include incineration!

Recycling has evolved a lot and apart from common municipal waste such as paper, plastic, metals, etc. other materials can be easily recycled as well, i.e. electrical and electronic equipment, batteries, etc.

Use the recycling center locator and find your nearest recycling spot.

4. Recover

Main objectives of recovery are to conserve natural resources and to reduce the amount of waste generated. Despite being used most commonly to describe incineration of waste to produce energy, waste recovery may refer as well to the selective extraction of disposed materials for a specific next use, such as recycling and composting.

Recovery is a more proffered option compared to waste disposal, but least preferred option when compared to recycling. Therefore, recovery is applied in cases that recycling is not feasible.

5. Dispose

Disposal of waste refers to the process of delivering waste to its final destination. As final destination it may be considered a landfill or a thermal treatment facility with no energy recovery (incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, or plasma facilities).

Waste disposal is the least preferred waste management option since it does not prevent emissions and depletion of natural resources. On the contrary, methane from landfill emissions contributes significantly to global warming, whereas soil, water and underwater are threatened by spills and accidents.

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