The Waste Hierarchy
The word ‘waste’ is used to describe any substance, that is no longer useful.
The Waste Hierarchy recognises that the most effective way to manage waste is to avoid producing it wherever possible, and the least effective way is to place it in landfill. Between these two levels are a range of options including reuse, recycle, energy recovery and containment, in that order of preference.
Avoiding waste is the preferable option. This means, thinking about whether you need an item before you purchase it.
Using items more than once and finding ways to give them a second life is very important. This could include refilling water bottles or washing and reusing a coffee cup.
Recycling turns waste materials into new materials and items. For example, an aluminium can, can be melted and remoulded into a new aluminium can. Recycling takes a lot of energy, so it is best to avoid waste and reuse materials rather than recycle.
Energy Recovery is capturing the energy that’s released when materials are broken down. This can be gas or heat, which can then be used to generate electricity.
This is the long-term management of hazardous materials such as radioactive material.
Landfilling waste is the last resort mainly because landfills are expensive to build and operate, and they can leak toxins into the air and water. When items are sent to landfill, all the embedded energy, minerals and materials are lost.
The Circular Economy describes the process of keeping materials going around and around in the system for as long as possible through reuse and recycling. It recognises that what one person sees as waste, another person can use as a resource.