What is waste?
Waste is much more than just the rubbish or garbage found in a bin. Anything no longer used or wanted and is discarded is waste, including:
- rubbish put in the bin, such as packaging material
- food that we buy but never eat
- clothing that we no longer wear
- electrical appliances that we no longer use
Unwanted items considered as waste and discarded by some may be useful to others. It is becoming increasingly popular to consider waste as a resource containing valuable materials to be recovered and used again.
Waste management hierarchy
City of Gold Coast Waste Management's concepts are underpinned by a management hierarchy that guides us through different ways of managing waste. The diagram below shows that waste avoidance, minimisation and recycling are the best options for the environment when it comes to treating and disposing of waste.
The hierarchy aims to achieve the maximum practical benefit from the resources used in products we consume and manages waste in a way that minimises the amount that ends up going to landfill.
- Waste avoidance is the most preferred option because it has the least impact on the environment. It is also the best value for money because no waste means no cost involved in its management.
- Waste reduction is the next best option. If it is impossible to avoid waste generation, we can try to minimise the amount through the choices we make.
- Waste reuse follows avoidance and reduction as a preferred option. It involves reusing products in their original form - refillable drink containers for instance - or for another purpose altogether, such as planting seedlings in empty milk containers.
- Waste recycling is an option when reuse is no longer practical. Resources contained in waste items are recovered and reprocessed to make similar materials or provide feedstock for another process. Making new products from recycled materials uses less energy and fewer resources and has less impact on the environment than using raw materials.
- Waste recovery uses the energy embodied in waste, generally after waste reduction, reuse and recycling options have been fully explored. The energy may be recovered through burning or gassifying the waste or using a bioreactor landfill to extract methane gas for use as a fuel.
- Waste disposal is considered the last resort in waste management, as all the resources and energy embodied in the waste are lost when it is disposed of. The most common form of waste disposal is landfilling where waste is buried in specially engineered areas.
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