What is the waste hierarchy?
At Re-Gen Waste, we do our utmost to raise waste management standards and to improve the industry ‘as a whole’ using modern techniques, but some overarching principles guide us. Since 1975, Europe has adopted one of the foremost waste principles known as the Waste Hierarchy. In Europe the waste hierarchy is a legally binding framework, making it enforceable by law and working outside it leads to penalties and fines.
The waste hierarchy sets out the most and least favourable ways in which waste should be managed. It is an evaluation tool that aims for greener attitudes and outcomes. It is not only however technical approaches and processes that the hierarchy challenges, but also attitudes to waste.
Waste from the ground up.
Often portrayed as a pyramid, the waste hierarchy begins with the least desirable result; Disposal. In this instance, 'disposal' refers to landfilling and other practices which have finalist outcomes. The product reaches the complete end of its lifecycle and offers nothing to the environment; most definitely a negative result. Thus, any waste outcome that is not landfill is a better solution. At Re-Gen, we follow these principles by helping to reroute hundreds of tonnes of waste from landfill annually.
Beyond the failure of Disposal, the next rung on the ladder is Recovery. Recovery means that energy/heat is recovered from the material at hand. By this definition, schemes such as Waste to Energy, a method popularised in Europe by Sweden and Denmark are considered recovery. At Re-Gen, we help prepare Waste for Energy, ensuring that waste that is not recovered is not disposed of.
The most common areas of the Waste Hierarchy.
In the middle of the Waste Hierarchy, we have Reuse and Recycling. The vast majority of the technical work of waste management improvement lies here. In recent years, recycling rates in the UK have stagnated somewhat; however, the bigger picture portrays a more positive scenario. Focusing on England, domestic recycling rates have leapt from 11% to over 40% since 2001.
Recycling prepares materials to be used again and even includes practices such as composting. Reuse refers to extending the material's lifecycle before it becomes waste.
The End Game
The waste hierarchy aims to improve how we understand waste and that we bin outdated ideas of all waste as rubbish. At the top of the hierarchy is 'Prevention', in some examples 'Minimisation' is also included. At Re-Gen, while our practical efforts focus on recycling waste and expanding the lifecycles of certain materials, we are committed to prevention.
We want future generations to be able to manage waste adequately, and every year we invest in our plants, our projects and also in education. 10% of our annual turnover is devoted to waste Research and Development. For more information on how Re-Gen Waste can help your business move up the pyramid, contact us now.