Waste management or waste disposal is a broad term that encompasses the collection, handling, transportation and disposal of human generated waste.
There are many different types of waste, all of which require different methods of disposal and management. Waste can be liquid, gaseous or solids.
Types of Waste
- Biohazardous Waste – Waste from medical or clinical settings that contains infectious materials such as blood, human tissue, sharps, contaminated supplies and fluids. Biohazardous waste can also be generated in veterinary settings.
- Biomedical Waste – Similar to Biohazardous waste, Biomedical waste includes sharps, absorbent items such as bandages, cotton and gauze contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids. Non-absorbent medical items such as catheters, gloves, gowns are all considered Biomedical waste if they are contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids.
- Biological Waste – Solid biological material that causes or has the capability of causing disease or infection. Waste generated from diagnostic, research or teaching activities during manipulation or cleanup are classed as biological waste. Also included is biomedical waste, animals that have died from disease and other waste considered capable of transmitting pathogens to humans or animals.
- Chemical Waste – Refers to any gaseous, liquid or solid chemical substances which is disposed of, or managed irresponsibly, could cause hazards to animal and human health and to the environment.
- Electronic Waste (E-Waste) – Refers to discarded electrical or electronic devices including TV’s, computers, mobile phones, tablets and any type of home appliance. IT equipment, including monitors, lamps, electronic toys, tools (battery or electric), medical devices and control instruments are all classed as E-Waste once they have reached the end of its useful life and discarded.
- Household Waste – Commonly referred to trash or garbage, household waste refers to waste which is generated by a domestic property, building or self-contained part of a building which is used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation. Domestic waste includes food waste, recyclable waste (plastics, paper, glass bottles, jars, aluminum cans), packaging and/or garden waste.
- Industrial Waste – Unwanted materials produced as an aside from industrial operations such as manufacturing, building, mining and mills. Waste from industry can include but not limited to solid, liquid, sludge, hazardous (toxic or non-toxic) and non-hazardous. Examples include construction waste (concrete, dirt, gravel and masonry), manufacturing waste (scrap metal, scrap timber, oil, solvents and chemicals).
- Municipal Waste – This is a broad term used to define waste collected from and treated by or for municipalities. It covers household waste, including bulky waste, waste from the commercial and trade sector, offices, institutions and small businesses. Also included is garden and yard waste, street sweepings and the contents of litter bins.
- Organic Waste – A broad term used to describe anything produced by agriculture, households or industry that originates from living organisms, animals and plants and is biodegradable. Examples of organic waste include food, paper, wood, sewage sludge and garden waste.
- Radioactive Waste – Sometimes referred to as nuclear waste, it is a by product of several activities including medical procedures, nuclear reactors for power generation, nuclear research, nuclear weapons reprocessing and some agricultural and industrial applications. The storage and disposal of radioactive waste is tightly regulated by governments in order to protect human health and the environment.
The Circular Economy
As can be seen, there are many types of waste, but most of what we call waste is not garbage or rubbish. In today’s global economy, we take raw materials to produce a product and then when that product has outlived its usefulness or stops working entirely, we throw it away.
That so-called waste product could in many cases be reused, repaired or recycled. However, in today’s global economy, less than 10% of resources are actually used more than once. Resources are getting scarcer, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if we carry on the way we are, we will eventually exhaust those resources. Then what happens!
There is a principle called the circular economy, which aims to make use of resources for as long as possible while also limiting waste.
In a circular economy, we can ideally reuse products that one user no longer needs or if that product is broken or no longer works, it can be repaired or remanufactured. Alternatively, that so-called waste product can be recycled. Waste has value, and we need to recognize that value.