03 Jan Waste Management
Waste is a guaranteed component of any urbanised landscape and the management of waste has existed for centuries. Propelled by an economic philosophy of exponential growth through consumerism, the availability, complexity and rapid manufacturing of consumer products is creating highly unsustainable levels of ‘waste’ material outputs. These point to the urgent need to remodel the way waste is managed (Rootes, 2009; UNEP, 2011). Waste management has for the most part provided end of pipe solutions, whereby increasing amounts of discarded materials are buried, dumped out at sea or turned into ash, creating the need for the extraction of further raw materials. These methodologies do not make the best use of the waste as a resource or do not deliver satisfactory environmental outcomes. The waste sector is better understood as a necessary part of the sustainability agenda, requiring more holistic solutions that take into account the concepts of sustainable production and consumption and the circular economy. The waste industry is now recognised as an underutilised ‘resource industry’ in its own right, with increasing focus on waste having inherent economic value. Formal and informal recycling practices have emerged as a dominant force, central to most waste management programs in the developed world (Karani and Jewasikiewitz, 2007).
Furthermore, increasing focus on economic innovation and entrepreneurialism during recent times of slow international growth has also seen more economic policy focus on waste management. Significant policy innovations in waste management have emerged over the last decade to address the growing demand for materials and mounting evidence of ecological and societal impacts of our throw-away consumerist economy. Whilst some policies aim at reforming the traditionalist waste management frameworks, others fundamentally reconceptualise and reframe it altogether (Cramer, 2013; Lauridsen and Jorgensen, 2010). The world of waste management is moving away from conventional landfill and recycling of both municipal and industrial waste towards integrated waste policy. Programs involving zero waste targets and 100% diversion from landfill are increasingly noted with rising urban densities and land prices in major cities across the world. Sustainability outcomes, sustainable production and consumption behaviours and circular economy programs all underpin new standards in governance structures and waste policy intervention. Furthermore, environmental regulations, material cost and material scarcity are also creating an awareness of ecodesign benefits in linking end of life waste materials as recycled/ returned inputs to earlier production stages (Andrews-Speed et al., 2012; EEA, 2014; UNEP, 2011).
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