EarthMatters
 
Waste
Program Notes

How to Solve the Mixed Waste Problem at Company Level
Countries all over the world need resources to run their economies and an approach known as ‘circular economy’ can be key to managing such resources sustainably. From a circular economy perspective, countries should strive to reduce the amount of resources they need, followed by reuse and recycling. The largest part of waste in the European Union (EU) is produced by industries and businesses (about 90 percent) although most of the policy effort by public institutions has been on municipal waste, mainly from households. Against this backdrop, a two-year regional project in Sweden focused on how to increase the recycling of waste generated by companies, particularly mixed waste. It was shown that recycling could be improved through relatively simple behavioural changes. The project identified six factors that can lead to improved recycling: legislation, leadership, networking, education, simplification and space. The findings indicate that such results can be best achieved through networking and collaboration.
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What is Waste ?
Waste (or wastes) are unwanted or unusable materials. Waste is any substance which is discarded after primary use, or it is worthless, defective and of no use.

Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others.

The UN Statistics Division Glossary of Environment Statistics describes waste as "materials that are not prime products (that is, products produced for the market) for which the generator has no further use in terms of his/her own purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose. Wastes may be generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, and other human activities. Residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation are excluded."

Under the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, Art. 3(1), the European Union defines waste as "an object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard."

There are many issues that surround reporting waste. It is most commonly measured by size or heavier when it is wet, and plastic or glass bottles can have different weights but be the same size.  On a global scale it is difficult to report waste because countries have different definitions of waste and what falls into waste categories, as well as different ways of reporting. Based on incomplete reports from its parties, the Basel Convention estimated 338 million tonnes of waste was generated in 2001.  For the same year, OECD estimated 4 billion tonnes from its member countries.  Despite these inconsistencies, waste reporting is still useful on a small and large scale to determine key causes and locations, and to find ways of preventing, minimizing, recovering, treating, and disposing waste.

Toxic waste materials can contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, and air which causes problems for humans, other species, and ecosystems.  Waste treatment and disposal produces significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, notably methane.  Waste management is a significant environmental justice issue. Many of the environmental burdens cited above are more often borne by marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, women, and residents of developing nations. 

The economic costs of managing waste are high, and are often paid for by municipal governments; money can often be saved with more efficiently designed collection routes, modifying vehicles, and with public education. Environmental policies such as pay as you throw can reduce the cost of management and reduce waste quantities. Waste recovery (that is, recycling, reuse) can curb economic costs because it avoids extracting raw materials and often cuts transportation costs. "Economic assessment of municipal waste management systems – case studies using a combination of life-cycle assessment (LCA) and life-cycle costing (LCC)".  The location of waste treatment and disposal facilities often reduces property values due to noise, dust, pollution, unsightliness, and negative stigma. The informal waste sector consists mostly of waste pickers who scavenge for metals, glass, plastic, textiles, and other materials and then trade them for a profit. This sector can significantly alter or reduce waste in a particular system, but other negative economic effects come with the disease, poverty, exploitation, and abuse of its workers.

Resource recovery is the retrieval of recyclable waste, which was intended for disposal, for a specific next use.  It is the processing of recyclables to extract or recover materials and resources, or convert to energy. This process is carried out at a resource recovery facility.  Resource recovery is not only important to the environment, but it can be cost effective by decreasing the amount of waste sent to the disposal stream, reduce the amount of space needed for landfills, and protect limited natural resources.

source: Wikipedia

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