Managing waste with the ‘3Rs’
Managing waste hierarchy can start with to the ‘3 Rs’. reduce, reuse and recycle. They classify waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimisation. The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies.
The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste. The waste hierarchy is represented as a pyramid. The basic premise is for policy to take action first and prevent the generation of waste. The next step or preferred action is to reduce the generation of waste, particularly by re-use.
The next is recycling which would include composting. Following this step is material recovery and waste-to-energy. Energy can be recovered from processes involved with landfill and combustion, at this level of the hierarchy. The final action is disposal, in landfills or through incineration without energy recovery. This last step is the final resort for waste which has not been prevented, diverted or recovered.
The waste hierarchy represents the progression of a product or material through the sequential stages of the pyramid of waste management. The hierarchy represents the latter parts of the life-cycle for each product used.
Making a start in managing waste
Your community should start thinking now about how it will be implementing a waste management program into the future. The community has two choices:
- Choose to do nothing in their community development program and suffer the consequences, or
- The community can make rules based on local wants and needs and implement the necessary training and waste management program.
When it comes to recycling, Australians have a great reputation. In the past few decades, recycling has gone mainstream, with a two or three bin system now available for most people at home, in their workplace, and out and about in public.
According to Planet Ark, 85% of Australians now think recycling at home is the right thing to do. That’s not surprising because the last two generations have had a brilliant anti-waste motto drilled into them, reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce, reuse, recycle is great. They tell us to use less and find ways to use things we have again, and in different ways to help turn what we can’t use, into something new. But what about sustainability beyond the three Rs? When problems of mass-production, excessive marketing, and overconsumption are so systemic, we need to go further to fix them.
There are many things you can do beyond the 3 Rs
- Refuse, learn to say no, when you don’t really need something
- Repair everything you can, the throwaway society must end
- Borrow or swap items instead of purchasing your own
- Remake by turning low-value products into new items of higher value or need
- Remember to bring cloth shopping bags and stainless steel water bottles
- Respecting the earth is making a choice to understand the gravity of your actions
- Restore by planting more trees and other natural resources.
The hierarchy of needs by Sarah Lazarovic, with apologies to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
How is your reputation in managing waste
The term ‘waste management’ collectively means many things to many people which is why creating a hierarchy of waste management for your community.
Unfortunately, too many Australians want to own everything. Why not start swapping and borrowing items when you need them so you will not have to purchase so much. Share your tools and equipment, plan to car-pool in getting to work. Deliver what you no longer need to the local recycling depot (Why not start one up if the community doesn’t have one), and make purchases of recycled items.
Business owners and non-profit organisations should leverage technologies to disruptively advance nearly every activity supply chain function, weeding out anything that is unnecessary. The payoff will be, reduced costs, a renewed focus on customer satisfaction, improved efficiency, and more sustainability in outcomes with less risk.
Where do products originate?
There has been an explosion of demand from consumers to know where their products are originating. For example, with a package of carrots, consumers want to know not only the farm where they were harvested but also the row and lot number where the carrots were planted and who packaged them.
Others consumers are paying more attention to the kilometres a product has to travel to reach them. We all need to be eating more seasonal fruit and vegetables’. Importing such things from thousands of kilometres away is wasting a lot of resources, including fuel and wear and tear on vehicles and equipment.
We need more incentives for individuals to devote the time and resources to becoming good gardeners. Then urban agriculture could play a major role in provisioning our regional, rural and remote communities. Intensive urban food production systems suggest we can shorten supply chains, reduce energy needs, and reconnect consumers and producers. All the while boosting the resilience of our food systems and reducing waste.
You have to address a deeper consciousness and promote basic food awareness. I believe this means you have to convince the local community of the advantages of locally produced food. Before weighing up the area available for food-growing, you have to convince the community of the advantages of locally produced food. In many communities, this is a social marketing campaign just waiting to happen.
Food banks are re-distributing imperfect fruit and vegetable which would be wasted.
Organisations who can help with managing waste
Unfortunately, our communities have moved so far away from this ideal. It is difficult to imagine policies or processes which would build these skills and have, to a large extent, been lost by current generations. It will be organisations like Farmer’s Markets, Men’s Sheds and Food Banks who can play a major role in managing waste. Keep in mind, young people can also bring some of the skills and attitudes which are so necessary for dealing with local waste. We could even see the return of road-side stalls.
“Don’t forget to measure outcomes. In the absence of a simple, shared scoreboard, people will make up their own ways to measure their success”. Peter Sergeant
“The great ecosystems are like complex tapestries – a million complicated threads, interwoven, make up the whole picture. Nature can cope with small rents in the fabric; it can even, after a time, cope with major disasters like floods, fires, and earthquakes. What nature cannot cope with is the steady undermining of its fabric by the activities of man”. Gerald Durrell