Waste Hierarchy

The Wastes Hierarchy is one of eleven principles of environment protection contained in the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Principle 1I). It is an order of preference and states that waste should be managed in accordance with the hierarchy, with avoidance being the most preferred option and disposal being the least.

1. Prevention

The most desirable action under the Waste Hierarchy is to prevent the creation of waste in the first place. In the modern world this can be seen as the most difficult for the ordinary person to undertake, however a little bit of searching and you may be able to find produce markets that sell goods without bags, or manufacturers who sell goods packaged in minimalist recycled and recyclable material.

2. Minimisation

If we are unable to prevent the creation of waste in the first place (which can be seen as the domain of manufacturers, rather than the ordinary person), then, as consumers, we have the option of minimising the amount of waste we create. We can do this by only purchasing bulk goods rather than smaller portion sized packs. We can search for manufacturers who’s packaging is recyclable and made from fully recycled materials.

3. Re-use

When it is not possible to prevent or minimise the waste we create, then we must look to purchasing goods where we can re-use the packaging. Plastic ice cream tubs are a good example of this. How many of us use them to store other foods or household items? Remember when visiting your grandparents and you discovered a biscuit tin ….. full of sewing paraphernalia?

4a. Recycling

Recycling of waste items is a relatively easy way to “deal” with waste. But where do the recycled materials go? Are you preferentially buying items which come in recycled materials? What about at the office? Does your employer purchase 100% recycled paper? Making sure we recycle as much as possible is important, but we must remember the other side of the equation – for something to be recycled, there must be a market for the end product. We, as consumers, have the power to change how manufacturers package items, by choosing products which have a recyclable end product, and by purchasing those end products.

4b. Composting

For many people, composting and worm farming is an excellent way of dealing with household food waste. But some of us do not have the space, or have other pressures on their back yards meaning a compost pile or worm farm is not possible. So, how about connecting with people in your area that do have a compost pile or worm farm? There are some good apps available now to connect you with others who would happily accept your donations.

5. Energy Recovery

Second to last in the Waste Hierarchy is the recovery of energy from waste – also known as Waste to Energy. There are many examples, particularly in the colder European countries of waste to energy facilities which are used to provide heating to community assets. In our region, we have several small scale waste to energy facilities which are using different waste products to provide energy solutions – Beaufort Hospital (woodwaste to heat); Berrybank Farm in Windemere (piggery wastes to electricity, fertilizer and potting mix); Biodiesel plant in Kaniva (legumes to fuel).

6. Disposal

The least desirable option for waste management is disposal. Landfills are a costly asset, to create, manage, close and monitor. And an area which formerly housed a landfill needs to be monitored for a significant number of years after it closes, to ensure that there are no environmental issues arising from it. We have so many options to divert our wastes from ending up in a landfill, and it is important that we all, from large manufacturers – to the everyday householder, make that little extra effort to do our part.