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Resource Recovery and Waste Management

Last Updated Dec 22, 2010 · Written by Craig Gibson

In an effort to reduce the amount of waste that is entering the environment, resource recovery and waste management is being implemented nationwide.  But what exactly are these strategies and what do they entail?  Read on to find out.

Resource Recovery

Resource recovery is where waste is actually seen as a resource.  It is concerned with the waste left over after residents have done the “3 R’s” – reduced, re-used, and recycled their waste.  Resource recovery uses a range of systems and technologies to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill, capture recyclable items from the rubbish, and convert the rubbish into resources such as compost and/or energy.  It also includes repairing and/or dismantling waste for re-use.

More than two thirds of the material that is disposed of in rubbish bins can be re-made into usable resources.  As well as being important for the environment, resource recovery is cost effective.  It reduces the amount of waste for disposal, saves space in landfills, is more energy-efficient than burning materials, and conserves natural resources.

Some common resource recovery facilities include:

• composting – where food, organic and green waste is processed in compost systems
• materials recovery facilities – sort recyclables such as glass, plastics, metals, and paper with the non contaminated material being further processed and converted back into new products
• construction waste recovery facilities – sort materials from construction sites using manual and automated means to recover materials such as brick, tiles, and concrete with these materials later used for road base and construction materials
• electronic waste recovery facilities – e-waste collected for recycling undergoes dismantling in order to recover materials such as cabling, aluminium, copper, glass, and plastics
• bioreactor landfills – these are used to generate green energy through the capture of biogas

Waste Management

Waste management is the collection, transport, processing, recycling, or disposal of waste materials.  It relates to materials that are produced by human activity and it is performed in order to reduce the effect of waste on health, the environment or aesthetics.

Waste disposal methods include:

• Landfill – this involves burying waste to dispose of it, and it is a common practice in most countries.  A properly designed and well managed landfill can be a hygienic and relatively inexpensive way of disposing of waste but poorly designed and managed landfills can create a number of environmental problems.
• Incineration – is a disposal method that involves the combustion of waste so that waste is converted into heat, gas, steam, and ash.  It can be small or large scale.  It can be controversial due to the gaseous pollutants it can emit.

Recycling methods include:

• Physical reprocessing – the collection and re-use of everyday waste materials such as plastics, metals, and paper.
• Biological reprocessing – organic waste that is organic in nature, such as food scraps and plant materials can be recycled using methods such as composting and digestion processes.  The resulting material is used as mulch or compost.

Waste avoidance and reduction is where people try to avoid the creation of waste in the first place.  This includes the re-use of secondhand products, repairing broken items, designing products to be reusable or refillable, not using disposable products, and designing products so that they can use less material while achieving the same purpose.

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