Over the past few years, waste management systems have radically changed based on sustainability principles; European regulations have not only increased the liability of producers and holders of both urban waste (household waste resulting from pruning, trimming, etc.) and special waste (from industry, construction, demolition, etc.), but also established a hierarchy in terms of strategies and actions, as listed below.
To prevent goods and materials from becoming waste “too soon”; a current example is the very short life of computers and mobile phones resulting in the production of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – WEEE. Even if WEEE quantities are not considerable – yet increasing – they contain hazardous substances for the environment, e.g. metals. Waste prevention covers all actions aiming at promoting the reuse of products, also through the increasing number of flea markets, or the so-called
To reduce waste production and hazardous substances. The design of goods, products and materials, or their distribution, can contribute significantly to this objective; e.g. packaging conceived to be used both for transport and display, or the elimination of overpackaging (i.e. useless packaging, such as cardboard boxes containing mayo or toothpaste tubes).
Waste management and treatment regulations also include recovering operations. These are cleaning, tidying and repairing actions enabling to easily put the waste product back on the market for reuse. This regulation is quite recent and has not been fully implemented in the waste management process yet.
Collected waste is first sent to special material recovery plants for high-quality recycling and production of secondary raw materials (today also called by the less friendly name “end of waste” or “waste that ceases to be waste”) replacing virgin raw materials. One of the crucial factors enabling the recovery of materials is the separate collection of urban waste organized in every municipality and carried out by every citizen.
Materials that cannot be recovered should, if possible, be recycled in a different manner, including the well-known energy recovery processes used for production of electrical and thermal energy.
Waste that, due to technical or economical reasons, cannot be reused or recovered should be disposed of, including disposal through landfill – which is to be considered as the very last resort.
The Panel looks at the most efficient models and at how to turn necessity into opportunity.
Green urban areas also mean better quality life for the citizens and the environment.
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