In nature, life operates in a circular system, and waste generated by one organism becomes food for another. Fallen leaves decay and the nutrients are returned to the earth, where they become food for the tree again. An exciting challenge facing city communities is to work towards a life without waste, where the unwanted items of one cycle are essential goods for another.
Waste is only waste if it has no further purpose. Once we can see the value in discarded products, we will understand that it makes sense to reduce the waste created, reuse as many products as possible, and recycle products such as paper, glass, plastic and metal. Food scraps and garden waste are biodegradable and should be used for compost or a worm farm to ensure that the nutrients are ploughed back into the system. It is important to have a system in place that supports recycling and composting. Allocate space at home so that you can separate your waste at source. That makes it easier to recycle.
Why is waste management important?
The main waste-related issues facing us are as follows:
- Resources are valuable and should not just be thrown away.
- Reusing and recycling items save space on landfill sites and delay the building of new ones.
- Recycling reduces the need for the constant extraction or mining of resources.
- The recycling industry is a rapidly growing employer.
- Large quantities of recyclables need to be collected to make it financially viable.
- Waste recycling and reduction reduce pollution and litter, which are very costly to manage.
- Incineration (i.e. the burning of waste) is expensive and releases dangerous toxins.
What can we do?
When considering how we can minimise our waste in an integrated way, we need to prioritise as follows:
- Reduce/avoid. Do you really need to buy that item?
- Reuse. What is the best way to reuse products and packaging? (Choose returnable products with a deposit, those that can be repaired, or are durable in the long term.)
- Recycle. Separate your waste, so that items can be recycled rather than sent to landfill.
- Disposal of waste. Do not litter, but ensure that waste is disposed of safely.
These are the main waste categories for households:
- Wet waste – things that you cannot really recycle and that will go to your dustbin and end up on a landfill site.
- Dry waste/mixed recyclables – things that you can recycle (paper, plastic, glass, cans).
- Hazardous waste – things that you should not place in your normal bin (e.g. energy saving lights).
- Organic waste – things that can be used in your compost heap or worm farm (e.g. fruit and vegetables).
Other things that you can do at home
- Separate your household waste into dry, wet and organic waste.
- Use kitchen or garden waste to start your own compost heap or worm farm.
- Use natural products instead of toxic chemicals for household cleaning and pest control.
- Ensure that your energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are safely disposed of and not put with your general waste.
- Ensure that electronic waste and batteries are disposed of through an e-waste programme and do not end up in the normal bin.
Information taken from the Smart Living Handbook.
Download the Waste chapter of the Smart Living Handbook