Story of waste! Where do they go?
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
Have you ever wonder about the before-life and the after-life of your stuffs?
How they were made?
What will happen after your stuffs being used?
Will they just disappear like the way they are thrown away from your closet?
Or it will end up in landfill and harm many generation after us?
How was the waste's journey through its history?
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In the industrialized region, before the 1970s, most of our waste was managed locally by dumping in landfills which raised the risk from human health and the environment. Waste was seen as problem and sole responsibility of the local authorities. The containment and remediation policies to control landfills and dumpsites impacts were first introduced after the 1970s, driven by the increasing of environment and health risk. It was also the first time waste related permit base legislation came in effective. The responsibility of waste treatment was shifted from the government to the manufacturer - the owner of the waste.
Since the shift of the responsibility, 1990s witnessed the wave of commodity recycling which was driven by volume of waste. Resources was dig out off the grounds, material waste was massively produced but only some of them can be recyclable. This was also the time we started the system of separate waste collection: door to door collection and centralized collection to the development of waste treatment facilities. The small, local treatment entities were taken by larger groups with specialized in recycling.
Come to the early 21st century, the volume driven force was replaced by value driven, the treatment of waste also leaped from recycling-focused only to the waste hierarchy.
The complicated waste management industry was established to reorient treatment away from processing high volume, low value waste and toward a greater emphasis on low volume, high value waste. The processing of waste no longer took place close to the source but rather in locations with higher price or cheaper cost.
The concept of economy in loops - circular economy (CE) was though mentioned in the Report to European Commission by Walter Stahel in 1976, only until 2020, CE became a common notion. Contrary to being motivated by quantity or value, CE was driven by the limitation of critical material on a finite world. CE focus on
Eliminate waste and pollution
Circulate product and material at their high value for as long as possible
The waste management sector now became an integrated part of the value chain and the producers remained responsibility for their material and product waste.
Despite the fact that this image is a good tool for illuminating the history of waste and its transformation into material in industrialized nations, particularly in the EU, it is not very helpful for explaining what happen with waste in developing and less developed regions. Even half of the year 2022 has already passed, some of us are still trapped in the early stages, when our primary priorities are recycling and mitigating negative environmental effects only.
Ellen macarthur Foundation - https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/
Circular Economy - Sustainable material management, Coursera.