Topic 3 The process of waste management

Already at the end of the Seventies, a concept of integrated waste management was introduced in the European Community, based on integration of three strategic actions; a) prevention of waste production; b) increase in material and energy recovery actions; c) disposal in controlled landfills of only those fractions that cannot be further exploited.

The modern waste management approach proposed in Europe is based on an adequate integration between the phases of 1) collection of differentiated fractions, 2) transportation and temporary storage, 3) recovery of material and energy content of waste, 4) controlled disposal in equipped landfills. Remember these four steps in such an integrated process: collecting, transporting/storing, recovering and disposing.

Waste management is an important industrial process, which receives waste as input and gives materials as outputs and energy: therefore, only the part of waste that cannot be used for recovery (of materials and energy) should be sent to final disposal in controlled landfills.

Remember! The separation of collection is the first and crucial step to implement and effective system of waste management. And all of us, as citizens, can contribute to this process, just making a first separation of waste in our houses. It is a little, but crucial step. Good separation of waste at home means good collection, good treatment, and finally good transformation of waste into useful resources (materials and energy).

 Look at how it is possible to get energy and useful materials from waste. This happens in the city of Amsterdam:

Geography and social context influence production and treatment of waste. For example, in Europe the average daily production per capita of urban waste is around 1.6 kg, while in developing countries of sub-Saharan and equatorial Africa, an average daily quantity of about 0.8 kg per inhabitant is estimated. The OECD countries actually produce about 44% of the global world waste, whereas Sub-saharian African countries just about 5%.

Social and economic conditions of an area also affect some qualitative characteristics of the waste produced, in particular determining its “product composition” or “commodity composition”. This is defined as the quantity (in weight or volume) of each product category constituting the unit (in weight or volume) of waste, and therefore expresses the relative quantities of organic fraction (i.e. organic and food residues), paper, plastic, metals, as well as other materials that make up the waste.