Definition of Waste Management

What Is Waste Management?

The concept of waste management involves the collection, removal, processing, and disposal of materials considered waste. Waste materials can be solid, gaseous, liquid, or even hazardous and are generally generated through human activity. Historically, developed nations have dealt with their waste by sending it to landfills or burning it in incinerators. Both of these options come with some significant environmental problems.

  • Leachate which is the liquid that passes through landfills’ garbage, absorbing poisons and other harmful substances that negatively impact underground waterways and fresh water systems
  • Wind can scatter trash from a landfill into local ecosystems and waterways, creating hazards for wildlife and people, as well as visual pollution of local environments
  • As organic waste rots it creates methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is 20+ times more potent in terms of climate change than carbon dioxide
  • Incineration, both in backyards and on a commercial scale, emits air pollutants, including things like dioxins, furans, and particulate matter

Of course, one of the problems with this way of viewing waste management is that it assumes the stuff we throw in the trash has no value – that it is indeed “waste.” However, if we were to turn our thinking around and think of leftover materials as resources for making new products, the problem of “waste management” would become an opportunity for resource extraction – a new way of “mining” the earth for materials to use in the manufacturing stream.

An integrated waste management approach attempts to solve this problem by considering the entire life cycle of a product and determining the best processing method for it in order to extract as much useful material while saving energy, water, and other resources.

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