Topic 1 What is waste?

Production of waste is an inevitable consequence of the activities we carry out as human beings. In a broader view, the production of waste, as a consequence of all activities of humans and other living beings, can be considered as an increase in the entropic content  (level of “disorder”) of natural systems. In short: the more waste we produce (which is a form of “disorder”), the more we increase the level of entropy (which is a measure of the level of disorder in a system).

To distinguish our contemporary era from the previous ones, there are factors such as a significant increase in consumption, a very broad diversification of circulating goods and a continuous process of formulation of new synthetic chemical compounds.

These factors affect both quantities and qualitative characteristics of solid waste, which is made of all residues produced by the community (individuals, families, commercial and industrial activities, and so on). Liquid and gaseous residues are called, respectively, wastewater and effluent.

In short: waste = solid waste (including biological waste) + wastewater + effluent.

In such a meaning, “waste” as a term does not express any judgment regarding the actual functionality of goods and materials or their qualitative characteristics, which may still be suitable for use; rather, it represents a specific will of the holder to discard them. Remember: waste is just what we decide to discard. Or not to discard, and to reuse.

Now let’s try to understand, in the next paragraph, why we are producing more waste than in the past.

Check in your house how many objects could be treated as “waste” or, on the contrary, reused for more time or in different ways, depending on your personal decision.