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Waste Management Approaches: an Emphasis on Waste Cycle Management

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Waste management or waste disposal is all the activities and measures necessary to manage waste from the beginning to final disposal. This includes monitoring, regulation, and refuse collection, transportation, processing and disposal. It also encompasses legal and regulatory frameworks related to waste management, including recycling guidelines. Wastes can take any form of solid, liquid or gaseous form and have different disposal and management methods. Waste management covers all kinds of wastes made in industrial, biological, domestic and special forms that can pose a threat to human health. It is produced by human activities, such as when raw materials are extracted and processed at factories. Waste management is intended to reduce the adverse effects of waste on health, the environment or aesthetics.

Waste management practices are not the same between countries (developed and developing countries). Much of the waste management practices deal with municipal solid waste (MSW), which is the waste produced by household, industrial and commercial activities.

Waste Hierarchy

“3 Rs” means the reduction, reuse and recycling of wastes, which classifies waste management strategies as judged desirable in terms of waste minimization. The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimization strategies. The goal of the waste hierarchy is to extract the greatest practical benefit from the product and to generate the minimum amount of waste. See Recovering Resources. Basically, the prerequisite is that the policy is to take action first and prevent waste generation, so the waste hierarchy is represented as a pyramid. The next step or desirable action is to reduce the incidence of waste by reusing it. Next is recycling, including composting. This step is followed by material recovery and waste-energy. At this level of stratification, energy can be recovered from the landfill and combustion processes. The final action is through incineration without waste, landfill or energy recovery. This last step is the final measure of waste that has not been prevented, converted or recovered. The waste hierarchy represents the progress of a product or material through a series of steps in the pyramid of waste management. The hierarchy represents the second half of the lifecycle for each product.

The life cycle begins with design, goes to the manufacturing, distribution, and use stages and goes through the shrinkage, reuse and recycling stages of the waste hierarchy. Each of the above stages in the life cycle provides opportunities for policy intervention, rethinking product needs, redesigning to minimize waste potential, and expanding coverage. The key to the product lifecycle is to optimize the world’s limited resource use while avoiding unnecessary waste generation.

Resource efficiency reflects the understanding that current global economic growth and development can not be sustained in current production and consumption patterns. Globally, we produce more resources than our planet can supplement. Resource efficiency is a reduction in the environmental impact of production and consumption of these products, from final raw material extraction to final use and disposal. These resource efficiency processes can handle sustainability.

The polluter-pays principle is to pay for environmental impacts of pollutants. With respect to waste management, this generally refers to the requirements that waste generators must pay to properly dispose of non-recoverable materials.

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