Eco-Friendly AF: The Hierarchy of Waste Management

Posted by Allison McDonald on

We've all heard of the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In fact, they form the basis of one of the more catchy tunes from my childhood that still pops into my head if anyone says those three words. But did you know that they are also part of something called The Waste Hierarchy? Well, neither did I.

I learned about The Waste Hierarchy one day when my husband informed me that in Scandinavia they BURN THEIR GARBAGE. I was like, wait, hold up, isn't that the actual worst for the environment? But since at this point he is a garbage and recycling aficionado, he informed me with authority that, in fact, no, burning garbage is actually better for the environment than sending garbage to landfill. What?! Yes, it's true. But before you go throwing a garbage bonfire party in your backyard, here is a bit more of a detailed explanation as to where incineration lands in the greater scheme of things and what the most favourable options are. 

Photo Credit: https://www.recycling.com

The diagram above, called "Lansink's Ladder", named after Dutch politician, Ad Lansink, (it's always the Europeans, isn't it?!) developed this strategy in 1979 for the optimal disposal and management of waste. It shows the preferred options for waste management, the best being the reduction in production and consumption of goods, and the worst being the disposing of waste in landfill. The option right above "Landfill" is "Incineration", meaning that facilities equipped to safely handle waste incineration are slightly preferable to accumulating further waste in the world's landfills since they are already beyond, well, full.

Above that option is "Energy", which refers to the burning of bio waste for energy, known as "waste to energy conversion". This method is used to turn waste into the production of energy such as heat and electricity. 

So even though I, (and now you!) have learned something new about the way the waste is handled in Scandinavia and the rest of the world, the truth still remains that the 3 Rs are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. Best practice is to manage your consumption, i.e., try to be happy with what you have, reuse what you can and recycle what you can't.

And also, leave the burning to the pros. 

Keep It Green!

From The GoJava Team


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