Topic 1 The need to change mentality

Sustainability refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. So, how can waste management positively impact on sustainability?

Waste, pollution and environmental protection are interconnected issues, concerning the need for rethinking both our production systems and lifestyles. The process of waste prevention and treatment represents an irreplaceable option towards environmental sustainability, and vice versa. In other words, the waste management process has a substantial impact on the environmental sustainability of our economy (and of our life too). Therefore, a focal point is a) overturning the current logic of a “linear civilization” (based on exploitation of resources and production of waste) and b) making the integrated management of the waste cycle one of the cornerstones of a new environmental policy, within the more general circular economy approach. In short (“🡪” means “implies”):

Sustainability 🡪 Circularity 🡪 Waste management 🡪 Sustainability

Did you know that waste reduction and reuse are key factors in reducing pollution?  Watch this video to better understand how waste prevention helps reducing several types of pollution:

Modern industrial revolution rested on the solid foundations of scientific and technological discoveries in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, already at the end of the 1700s, some economists had highlighted how a constant demographic increase would have depleted resources and represented a limit to development. And to population itself.

A trend of exponential growth of human world population today collides with limited resources and increasing pollution, combined together. In the twentieth century, the concept of industrial development was linear: from raw materials, to products, to waste. Waste management was based on the question: “How do you get rid of waste effectively and with not so much damage to health and the environment?”.

In the 21st century, on the other hand, it is necessary to manage the depleting resources so as not to deprive future generations of a part of their value, if not their entire value. Therefore, a good starting point is a sustainability approach, to build cyclical paths in which waste becomes a resource for other productions. Hence, as mentioned, a very close connection between circular economy, waste management and environmental sustainability: three terms linked into a deep reciprocal relationship, in the historical moment we are going through.

We always have to keep in mind that different historical periods require different visions and solutions. Some examples: yesterday, DDT was widely used to eliminate mosquitoes and malaria; today, we observe strong negative effects due to bioaccumulation of DDT in the food chain. Today: uncontrolled growth, indifference towards environmental climate indicators, no limits to the exploitation of fossil and non-renewable resources, free exploitation of soils and water. Tomorrow? The need for sustainable development, and the measurement of man’s impact on Earth through what we call our “ecological footprint”, must guide our choices both on a socio-political level and in terms of everyday behavior.

We have previously seen the so called “six R’s approach”. Do you remember it?  A shorter version is the “3 R’s” approach.

Watch the video below (you can share it with your children too, in your family), then write down the differences between the “3 R’s” and the “6 R’s” approaches.

The 3 “missing R’s” that you do not find in the short “three R’s approach”, and that you have in the extended “six R’s approach”, require more effort to be applied in our daily life. Why?

Write down examples of things you can do in your life to apply the 3 more complex R’s that transform the 3 R’s approach into the 6 R’s one.