Before something becomes a waste, it is a resource, with some degree of value. That resource can then turn into what is considered to be waste, for a variety of reasons:
- If a product is only designed for temporary use (for example, single-use plastics)
- If the inputs into a manufacturing/sales process are not used effectively, or a useless by-product is generated, this leads to wastage (such as left-over scraps of fabric)
- If something breaks or becomes unusable (for instance, many electronics have short life-spans, and inevitably become waste)
Waste (and recyclable materials) are produced as a part of our daily life. These materials can be produced through manufacture/production of the things we consume and, by us as a result of our individual actions. The legal definition of waste is as follows: “Any substance or object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard.”
Once items are classed as a waste, they must be appropriately managed. Waste typically needs to be transported to a waste management site, and this requires a licensed waste carrier. Sometimes waste will be taken to a waste transfer station, to be sorted, before being transported to its final destination – a waste treatment site. There are multiple options for dealing with waste:
- Preparing for re-use: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure… if some materials are no longer wanted by the owner, they might be passed on to someone with a use for them (however, this may still be subject to aspects of waste legislation).
- Recycling: turning waste back into its original product, or a new, useful product. The is most efficient when used to recreate an original product.
Did you know that recycled paper uses around 40% less energy than paper from virgin materials, and every tonne of paper recycled saves around 17 mature trees?
- Recovery: recovering energy from waste involves incinerating it to generate heat and electricity. This can be ideal for hazardous waste, by eliminating infectious components. However, as the electricity grid decarbonises, this treatment option is less desirable, due to the greenhouse gases emitted.
- Disposal: this involves incineration without energy recovery, or landfilling waste. Landfills are unfavourable due to the length of time taken for waste to degrade, and because poorly managed sites can cause pollution.
Selecting a waste management option depends on various things, including the ease and economic value of the treatment process and end-products. Another important aspect is any health and safety or environmental risks that may be posed by the waste. Organisations that generate waste have a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled safely, and is transported in compliance with the law. This involves following certain procedures and checks when making arrangements for the waste to be collected. Further controls apply if waste is hazardous.
Overall, it is clear the waste journey can be a large, complicated issue. There are many problems that businesses, organisations, and even households, may consider when dealing with the waste they produce. Ensuring that waste materials are managed effectively is becoming ever more important as we recognise the need to protect resources, finances and the environment at large.
Here at Albion Environmental Ltd, we provide information and resources that enable you to develop a solid understanding of the waste industry, and how this may affect you. We have multiple one or two-day training courses on waste, including Introduction to Waste Management Legislation; Working with Waste Management Legislation; Household Re-cycling Centre Operators Course.
More information can be found here.