Waste has always been a part of life. Since industrialisation, the amount of waste produced has increased exponentially and getting rid of it has become a part of everyday life. Households and large enterprises alike have to contend with their own waste management responsibilities. The amount and the methods may change over the years, but the needs remain the same. Someone’s got to deal with the rubbish.
In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that Australia produced 75.8 million tonnes of solid waste between the years 2018 and 2019, a 10% increase from the previous 2016/2017 report. Of those figures, the most wasteful sectors were manufacturing and construction, followed by households, and then electricity, gas and water services.
Whether your industry made that top four or not, proper management of waste is still extremely important, and there are quite a few methods to manage it.
8 types of waste management
In the following paragraphs, we are going to explore the different types of waste management, how they work and whether they’re a viable option or not. Starting with the most problematic of them all:
Before the environmental impacts of consumerism and waste disposal were known, landfills became the method of choice for businesses and consumers around the globe. Collecting waste to throw in landfills is the easiest form of waste management. However, it’s the most environmentally destructive, and it’s unlikely anyone will get away with this as a single option for much longer.
Incineration deals with waste disposal by burning solid wastes at high temperatures. This method is predominantly used to reduce waste volume, although it does not do much to improve environmental impacts. Waste disposed of in this way will produce greenhouse gases as they are turned into residues and gaseous products.
Another high-temperature treatment method is plasma gasification, where plasma torches of more than 5,500 °C turn the solid waste into an electrically charged or highly ionised gas. Converting the solid or liquid wastes into syngas, this method disposes of waste while generating renewable energy. Unfortunately, this method is not widespread in Australia.
Waste to Energy (WtE)
Waste-to-Energy refers to solutions that generate heat, electricity or fuel from waste. WtE is a catch-all term, so plasma generation as a method would fall under the WtE umbrella, which includes any method that converts non-recyclable waste into heat, electricity or fuel.
Special Waste Disposal
Not all waste can be converted. There are always going to be certain hazardous waste types that need special disposal to avoid contamination. Special waste disposal includes biomedical waste, asbestos, pesticides, sludges and trap wastes. Any type of waste that cannot be mixed with typical waste items.
Recovery and Recycling
Recycling is one of the greatest steps that has been taken to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. The combination of product manufacturers using recyclable materials and consumers sorting and recycling those materials have allowed recycling to be a successful method of waste management. Recycling reduces energy usage, waste in landfills, air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and it preserves natural resources.
Composting turns organic waste into nutrient-rich food for plants, using natural biodegradation — letting the materials sit in place for months while microbes decompose it. Composting is not only for food scraps, it is actually a powerful waste disposal option to convert unsafe organic matter (faeces, for example) into safe plant-nurturing compost.
The best way to manage waste is to reduce the amount that is generated. This could mean favouring recyclable products, repairing items rather than replacing them, eliminating your use of plastic bags and changing your buying habits to consider the real lifecycle of each product you buy.
The best solution for your waste management needs
Most organisations will require solutions that are a combination of those listed above. The changing awareness of environmental impacts and goals for net neutrality means that solutions need to be flexible, with growth and improvement factored in.
Since 1976, Elephants Foot has played a pivotal role in Australia’s waste and recycling industry. We have been at the forefront, helping to support businesses with their waste management solutions according to their changing values and increasing awareness of environmental impacts.
Elephant’s Foot is a holistic waste management partner for Australian businesses, offering chute solutions, consulting services, and equipment service and care solutions.
Contact us today to discuss how we can design a waste management solution to meet your needs.