The cornerstone of most waste management strategies is the waste hierarchy, also known as the ”3 Rs” – reduce, reuse, recycle. The aim is to extract the maximum practical benefit from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste.
It can be compared to a six-layer pyramid.
· At the peak is the ultimate aim – the prevention of waste.
· The next layer is minimisation, where you generate as little waste as possible.
· Below this is reuse, where you repair rather than throw away.
· The next layer is recycling where waste materials are processed into new products.
· Fifth from the top is energy recovery where energy is extracted from remaining waste.
· Finally, the bottom line, the disposal of anything that is left.
Various strategies have been considered to deal with waste. Producer responsibility is a strategy designed to promote the integration of all costs associated with a product up to its eventual disposal. Manufacturers, importers or vendors of a product are required to be responsible for its end-of-life disposal. The costs of this would obviously be reflected in the purchase price.
Another strategy is the polluter pays principle. In this case the polluting party is responsible for paying for the impact caused to the environment. With respect to waste management, this will generally mean being required to pay for appropriate disposal of waste.
An example of this principle would involve the kerbside collection vehicle weighing each bin as it was being emptied and the consumer subsequently being billed accordingly.
One of the most critical issues with respect to waste management is education and awareness. The world’s natural resources are in grave danger. Environmental pollution and degradation are occurring at an unprecedented scale and speed.
Waste material represents a fantastic resource that in many cases is simply there waiting to be tapped. To simply bury it in the ground or burn it is not a realistic option in the 21stcentury.