The Waste Hierarchy
The Waste Hierarchy is essentially the baseline for Zero Waste to Landfill initiatives, which highlights the various solutions for waste before resulting to landfill.
The model, an upside-down triangle, depicts the methods from most to least favourable, starting at prevention and ending with landfill, which is presented as a last possible resort. Overall the goal of the model is to encourage waste creators and management providers to explore alternative solutions and get the most out of waste.
The best way to divert waste from landfill is to simply not create it in the first place. During prevention, a business may explore alternative processes to reduce waste, or environmentally friendly packaging.
Prepare for Reuse
Reusing materials transforms waste from uneconomical to valuable and useful. A simple example is plastic bags, often dobbed single-use but able to be reused over and over.
In order to transform waste products into new items, waste must be recycled. Many materials can be recycled, i.e. cardboard, glass, metal, wood and more, helping to reduce waste in landfill. Materials can often be recycled many times without losing quality.
Through a variety of processes, from incineration to anaerobic digestion and more, waste materials are transformed into energy. Although this uses up the material and it cannot be used again, the process results in the benefit of energy creation.
Disposal here means going to landfill or incinerating waste without gaining energy. Through this method, there is no new product created or benefit from destroying waste. Landfill sites contribute to pollution; for example, untreated waste pollutes waterways and food waste releases methane.