Key Benchmarks for Assessment
There are a number of concepts about waste management which vary in their usage between countries or regions. Some of the most general, widely-used concepts include:
1. Waste Hierarchy: The waste hierarchy refers to the “3 Rs” reduce, reuse and recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimization. The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimization strategies. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste (Wikipedia 2008).
2. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): This is a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with products throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 1999).Extended producer responsibility imposes accountability over the entire life cycle of products and packaging introduced on the market. This means that firms, which manufacture, import and/or sell products and packaging, are required to be financially or physically responsible for such products after their useful life. They must either take back spent products and manage them through reuse, recycling or in energy production, or delegate this responsibility to a third party, a so-called Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), which is paid by the producer for spent-product management. In this way, EPR shifts responsibility for waste from government to private industry, obliging producers, importers and/or sellers to internalise waste management costs in their product prices (Hanisch 2000). A life-cycle perspective is also taken in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) frameworks: “Producers of products should bear a significant degree of responsibility (physical and/or financial) not only for the environmental impacts of their products downstream from the treatment and disposal of their product, but also for their upstream activities inherent in the selection of materials and in the design of products” (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2001). “The major impetus for EPR came from northern European countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as they were facing severe landfill shortages. EPR is generally applied to post-consumer wastes which place increasing physical and financial demands on municipal waste management” (Environment Protection Authority New South Wales 2003).
3. Polluter Pays Principle: In environmental law, the polluter pays principle is the principle that the party responsible for producing pollution should also be responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment. With respect to waste management, this generally refers to the requirement for a waste generator to pay for appropriate disposal of the waste. Polluter pays is also known as extended polluter responsibility (EPR). This is a concept that was probably first described by the Swedish government in 1975. EPR seeks to shift the responsibility dealing with waste from governments (and thus, taxpayers and society at large) to the entities producing it. In effect, it internalises the cost of waste disposal into the cost of the product, theoretically meaning that the producers will improve the waste profile of their products, thus decreasing waste and increasing possibilities for reuse and recycling (Wikepedia 2008). Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development defines extended polluter responsibility as:
A concept where manufacturers and importers of products should bear a significant
degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle, including upstream impacts inherent in the selection of materials for the products, impacts from manufacturers’ production process itself, and downstream impacts from the use and disposal of the products. Producers accept their responsibility when designing their products to minimise life-cycle environmental impacts, and when accepting legal, physical or socio-economic responsibility for environmental impacts that cannot be eliminated by design (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2001).
4. Zero Waste: This is a philosophy that aims to guide people in the redesign of their resourceuse system with the aim of reducing waste to zero. Put simply, zero waste is an idea to extend the current ideas of recycling to form a circular system where as much waste as possible is reused, similar to the way it is in nature (Wikepedia 2008). Zero waste requires that we maximize our existing recycling and reuse efforts, while ensuring that products are designed for the environment and having the potential to be repaired, reused, or recycled (“What is Zero Waste? 2004). The zero-waste strategy is to turn the outputs from every resource-use into the input for another use, or in other words outputs become inputs. An example of this might be the cycle of a glass milk bottle. The primary input (or resource) is silica-sand, which is formed into glass and formed into a bottle. The bottle is filled with milk and distributed to the consumer. At this point normal waste methods would see the bottle disposed in a landfill or similar, but with a zerowaste method the bottle can be saddled with a deposit, at the time of sale, which is redeemed to the bearer upon return. The bottle is then washed, refilled, and re-sold. The only material waste is the wash-water, and energy loss has been minimized. Zero Waste is a goal, a process, a way of thinking that profoundly changes our approach to resources and production. Not only is Zero Waste about recycling and diversion from landfills, it also restructures production and distribution systems to prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place. In addition, the materials that are still required in these re-designed, resource-efficient systems will be recycled back into production (Roper 2006: p. 326).
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· Castell A, Clift R, Francae C 2004. Extended Producer Responsibility Policy in the European Union: A Horse or a Camel? Journal of Industrial Ecology, 8: 4 – 7.
· Hanisch C 2000. Is Extended Producer Responsibility Effective? Environ Sci. Technol, 34: 170 -175.
· Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2001. Extended Producer Responsibility: A Guidance Manual for Governments. Paris, France. From Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development fact sheet about EPR:<http://www.oecd.org/document>
· Roper W 2006. Strategies for building material reuses and recycle. International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, 6: 313 – 345.
· The Economist, Weekly, June 7, 2007 “The truth about recycling” <http://www.economist.com>
· The League of Women Voters 1993. The Garbage Primer. New York: Lyons & Burford, pp. 35-72.
· Tierney J 1996. Recycling Is Garbage. New York Times, Daily, June 30, 1996, P. 3.
· Tong X., Lifset R, Lindhqvist T 2004. Extended Producer Responsibility in China: Where is Best Practice? Journal of Industrial Ecology, 8: 6-9.
· Wikipedia 2008. Recycling. Website 2008 <http:// http://www.wikipedia.org>
· Winter J 2007. A world without waste-The ‘zero waste’ movement imagines a future where everything is a renewable resource. The Boston Globe, pp. 1-3. From LexisNexis database: Website 2008 <https:// http://www.lexisnexis.com>
· Zero Waste California Fact Sheet 2004. What is Zero Waste California? From Website 2008 <http:// http://www.zerowaste.ca. gov/WhatIs.htm>