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The Waste Hierarchy: An Overview.

By

Efficiency
Waste Hierarchy
Application
Method/ treatment process
Less Desirable Solutions
Reduce

In reducing the volume of waste, the waste hierarchy is aiming to prevent its production in the first place.  When first introduced, a common mis-conception was that it implied Compacting the waste to reduce it’s volume. 

Waste Reduction targets have been achieved by:

• Manufacturers changing Packaging & reducing the size of common household goods.
• Public awareness campaigns, including Slim your Bin (City of London Corporation), Love Food, Hate Waste (WRAP).

Re-use

The re-use of consumer, industrial & business goods in their existing form offers a second tier solution to the reduction of post consumer waste. 

Although not officially included in the relevant Acts, technical guidance or Legislation of the UK, re-purpose fits in just about here and implies the changing of an item to fulfill another purpose.

A thriving sector exists at local and national levels and activities supported by it include:

• Charity Donations (Second Hand Clothing, Electronics, Sporting Goods, Business Equipment, Books, Records, CDs)
• Re-distribution through Social/ Community Schemes (Similar to the above, athough of direct benefit as opposed to a way of raising funds).
• Hand-Me-Downs: Something that many families are familiar with, whether an old toy, clothes, books, furniture or electrical/ electronic equipment.
Note; Some HWRC (Household Waste & Recycling) Sites employ re-use for certain wastes deposited with them. Permitted facilities are allowed to employ repair and refurbishment, raising some waste items back up the heirarchy into re-use.

Recycle

Recycling is applied where post consumer or C&I (Commercial and Industrial) goods have reached the end of their working life.  Their recycling is carried out at specifically licensed waste management sites through a process of dis-assembly, shredding, shearing or crushing, before being passed through a series of stages that ultimately aim to recover materials. 

These processes all aim to push wastes towards the classification “end of wastes”

Such sites include:

ELV: End of Life Vehicles
WEEE: Waste Electrical & Electronic Recycling
MRF: Materials recycling facilities sort and pre-treat household and some C&I wastes, separating them for further recovery.
Transfer & treatment: Applies rudimentary treatment to wastes (segregation & disassembly) prior to passing the “outputs” onto more specialized facilities (includes Skip Hire, Bin collection, bin lorries)
Scrap Yards: Segregate and collect various different Waste Metals for further treatment/ refining.

Recover
Recover appeared as a sub-category of the Waste Hierarchy during 2012-2013.  It is applied to materials that arise as residual wastes from recycling activities including wastes deposited at:

  • Permitted facilities (WEEE, ELV, MRF)
  • HWRC (where pre-sorting is applied)
  • Landfill Sites, where some limited segregation and sorting passes wastes back up the Waste Heirarchy (into the recycling/ recovery stream)
Such wastes have no commercial value in their current form and have historically been “landfilled”. New and modern processes offer solutions to their disposal that allow for limited recovery, predominantly of energy from the residual waste stream (Energy From Waste-EfW). These processes include:

Refuse Derived fuels (RDF): used in the generation of electricity from Incineration. CHP plants (Combined Heat and Power) offer a more efficient solution, collecting heat as well as power (Electricity) Anerobic Digestion (AD): Composting green waste anerbobically to produce Methane for use as a Gas.

Pyrolysis: The heating of wastes in an inert gas, releasing fuels in the form of both Gas and Oil.

Disposal

Disposal applies to wastes that cannot be recovered or re-used or where TEEP has been applied but the cost of segregation, transport and treatment exceeds the beneficial costs of recycling or recovery.  Such circumstances arise where local authorities lack access to local facilities able to make use of the particular waste material.

The least desirable option available for the disposal of any form of waste, it is applied due to a lack of infrastructure. The only option available for such waste is Landfill.

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