As populations and resource demands climb, waste production contributes to emissions of carbon dioxide, leaching of hazardous materials into the soil and waterways, and methane emissions. In the United States alone, over the course of a decade, 500 trillion pounds of resources will have been transformed into nonproductive wastes and gases.[1] Thus, a crucial component of sustainable living is being waste conscious. One can do this by reducing waste, reusing commodities, and recycling.

There are a number of ways to reduce waste in sustainable living. One method is reducing paper waste, such as by taking action to cancel junk mail and move paper transactions to an online document. Another method to reduce waste is to buy in bulk, which reduces packaging materials. Preventing food waste is an alternative to organic waste compiling to create costly methane emissions. Food waste can be reintegrated into the environment through composting. Composting can be carried out at home or locally, with community composting. An additional example of how to reduce waste is being cognizant of not buying materials with limited use in excess, such as paint. Reduction aides in reducing the toxicity of waste if non-hazardous or less hazardous items are selected.[2]

By reusing materials, one lives sustainably by not contributing to the addition of waste to landfills. Reuse saves natural resources by decreasing the necessity of raw material extraction. Recycling, a process that breaks down used items into raw materials in order to make new materials, is a particularly useful means of contributing to the renewal of goods. Recycling incorporates three primary processes; collection and processing, manufacturing, and purchasing recycled products.[3] An offshoot of recycling, upcycling, strives to convert a material into something of similar or greater value in its second life.[4] By integrating measures of reusing, reducing, and recycling one can effectively reduce production of waste and use materials in a sustainable manner.

Waste separation[edit | edit source]

Waste needs to be separated for ecological processing:

  • Biodegradable (organic) waste is placed into special bins
  • Non-biodegradable waste is separated into several types of containers (depending on the material it holds) at Civic amenity sites, junkyards
  • Garbage collection is a supplementary service that is provided in some cities. However, as the waste does not need to be separated well in these bags (organic remains often remain in discarded food containers, several types of materials/packaging are discarded in a same bag), it is best not used

By separating the waste this way, the materials can be recycled better (see Cradle-to-cradle design). In addition, biogas can be extracted from the biodegradable waste (trough dry or wet anaerobic digestion), or atleast humus can be attained through composting.

Other kinds of waste[edit | edit source]

Waste occurs in several forms, including:

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. New York City: Little, Brown and Company, 1999. Print.
  2. Reduce United States Environmental Protection Agency. 5 May 2010. Web 10 Nov. 2010
  3. Wastes – Resource Conservation – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle United States Environmental Protection Agency. 05 May 2010. Web 10 Nov. 2010
  4. UpCycle Sustainability Management. Presidio Graduate School. Web. 10 Nov. 2010
  5. Cambio verde: waste-food exchange project in Curitiba, Brazil

External links[edit | edit source]

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