HomeZero WasteWaste FreeWhy Reducing Waste at an Individual Level?

Why Reducing Waste at an Individual Level?

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Urbanization and economic growth are important drivers of municipal wastes’ continuous increase. The buy, use and trash trend of life generates tremendous amount of waste by individuals and companies in urban areas. In 2016, 2.5 Bn tons of waste were produced in Europe(1).

Not only wastes have a negative impact on the environment but also their management is expensive for countries – 17 Bn € in France in 2014(2). No wonder, in low-income countries, 90% of waste is mismanaged(3).

While some waste can be reused or recycled and therefore turned into resources, it is important to consider that the best waste is the one not produced and not consumed at all.

Let’s understand the categories of waste, their management and impact on the environment.

What are main waste categories?

Depending on regional economic activities and consumption, waste type and amount vary considerably. The main categories are:

  • Municipal solid waste
  • Liquid waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Industrial non-hazardous waste
  • Radioactive waste
  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Mining waste…

What are municipal wastes?

Municipal waste are wastes collected and treated by or for a municipality.

It covers wastes from households, businesses, gardens, street sweepings and litter containers. It excludes wastes from municipal sewage treatment, construction/demolition activities.

Municipal waste exceeds 550 kg per capita per year in western countries(4) and includes food waste, packaged goods, disposable goods, used electronics(5).

How solid municipal wastes are managed?

When it is not exported to be treated elsewhere, waste treatment varies from country to country, and is managed through:

  • Landfill
  • Incineration
  • Waste-to-energy
  • Storage
  • Treatment
  • Reuse
  • Recycling
  • Composting

What are the effects of solid municipal wastes on the environment?

The effect of wastes on the environment depends on its treatment. For example:

  • Treating via landfills is the most harmful option (6). As waste decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, one of several non-CO2 gases that contribute to global climate change. For example, the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S. (16%), comes from Municipal waste landfills(7).
  • Treating via incineration, or any waste-to-energy process is also used for municipal waste management. Less expensive than recycling and composting, incineration and waste-to-energy cause massive CO2 emissions and other outputs such as slags and dangerous gas residues (8).

Reduce your waste to make a positive impact on the environment!

Waste causes pollution and its treatment utilizes resources, energy and money from municipalities. By reducing waste at an individual level, you participate to a fundamental society change. There are no small individual actions.

For tips on how to reduce your waste, read the zero waste tool section.

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