Waste hierarchy

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					                                  Efficient Waste

Why should local governments take action?
Wealth and waste are interdependent in our society – the wealthier we get the more
waste we produce. Most of what we throw away is either burnt in incinerators, or dumped
into landfill sites (67%). These two methods to handle waste cause air, water and soil
pollution (landfilling, in addition, takes up valuable land space) which, in turn, is harmful
to human health, as well as to plants and animals.
To reduce the correlation between wealth and waste accumulation and the related
environmental impacts, the EU has put in place a legal framework that follows a two-track
approach; on the one hand it requires waste prevention to be the priority measure in
waste management so that a decoupling of waste generation and economic growth can be
achieved; on the other hand it encourages the Member States to promote the reuse and
recycling of waste as well as to improve the final disposal and monitoring in order to
reduce the environmental damage posed by the different waste streams.

Local and regional governments are heavily and increasingly involved in the management
of waste. In most cases, they are responsible for developing and implementing municipal
waste management plans, which are important to ensure the quality of life for citizens.
The collection and treatment of household waste is usually a municipal responsibility,
including establishment of an adequate network of treatment facilities. They also collect
waste from small and medium sized companies, because this waste is comparable to
household waste. In addition to environmental and social benefits, waste management
and recycling activities also provide major job opportunities.

How can local authorities take action?
Waste management starts with planning, which allows local authorities to take stock of
the existing situation, to define the objectives that need to be met in the future, to
formulate appropriate strategies and identify the necessary implementation means.
Furthermore, there exists an obligation, posed by the EU Waste Framework
Directive 75/442/EEC (amended by 91/156/EEC) upon the ‘competent authority’ (be it a
national, regional or local one) to draw up waste management plans 1 .

The following hierarchy, which reflects the priorities of the EU waste policy, should be seen
as the guiding principle for waste management 2 :
    1. Prevention
    2. Reuse
    3. Recycling
    4. Energy recovery
    5. Disposal (as environmentally friendly as possible)

   To facilitate the authorities, the European Commission has produced a methodological guide on preparing waste
management plans (the link can be found in the last section of this document).
  This hierarchy of measures is required for in the Directive 2006/12/EC of the European Parliament and the
Council on waste

The first step in waste management is to try and prevent the generation of waste by
reducing at source the waste produced. This is the prevention principle. Where this is not
possible, the waste generated should be reused. Again, if this cannot be achieved the
waste should be recycled for raw materials or composted, or incinerated with energy
recovery. The last option in the hierarchy is the disposal to landfill or incineration without
energy recovery. In EMAS terms the need for constant effort to move waste management
action higher up the hierarchy from 5 towards 1 is a classic example of continuous

In the following, some exemplary measures to be undertaken by local governments at
each of the hierarchy stages are outlined.

Prevention of waste and sustainable consumption
Waste prevention is one of the great challenges in our society. This principle refers to the
changing of lifestyles and consumption patterns. The basic idea is simple: we should
always consider whether new products or services are needed and how they are produced.

Some basic instructions for all local governments include:
       Avoid using disposable products such as disposable cutlery, cups, towels, napkins
       Avoid purchasing heavily packaged products;
       Encourage and instruct your suppliers to minimise packaging.

Within your community:
        Organise waste prevention campaigns in schools;
        Promote events such as ‘do not buy anything days…’;
        Distribute stickers ‘no advertisements’ to people so that they can use them to
        avoid unnecessary paper waste.

                           Waste prevention in the City of Munich, Germany
                           Munich, the capital city of the state of Bavaria, Germany, started to
                           develop a waste avoidance approach to address the problem of
                           disposable tableware and its associated waste. As early as 1991, the local
                           government banned the use of disposable paper plates, plastic cups,
                           forks and knives at large-scale public events. They are replaced by
                           reusable items for which consumers pay a deposit that they get back
                           when they bring back the items. This significantly reduced the waste
                           volume generated by events like the Oktoberfest, the Christmas market,
                           Auer-Dult Faire and the Munich City Marathon.
                           In the Oktoberfest alone, the quantity of residual waste was divided by 20
                           in 9 years (from 11,000 tonnes in 1990 to 550 tonnes in 1999). The
                           participation of all enterprises involved in the Oktoberfest in the
                           introduction of reusable tableware strongly contributes to this success.
                           This event is now based on a strong and well-accepted ecological
Today repairing furniture, bicycles etc., is often more expensive than buying new
products. In many countries reuse centres have been established. These centres aim to
break the short product to waste cycle extending the life of products through repairing
them and selling them at a low price. The reuse centres can also be used as means of
creating employment for people with problems in entering the job market or suffering
from long term unemployment. For example in Flanders (Belgium) the reuse centres
employed over 2500 people in 2005.

To encourage reuse, local governments should
        Consider establishing reuse centres
        Consider repairing waste streams such as waste from electrical and electronic
        equipment (WEEE). Electrical and electronic equipment is often discarded when

          they are still quite recent and only need small repairs. It is also important for the
          environment as it stops toxic materials ending up in landfill. 3

The same principle of reuse should be used in your council offices. For example some of
the surplus furniture or equipment can still be useful for others and can be donated
through charities etc.

                                               For example the M.D.J.Light’s electrical equipment recycling
                                               plant in Hove, UK, collects computers, TVs etc from the
                                               Council’s household waste recycling centres and strips raw
                                               materials from their components so these so these can be
                                               reused. The facility is run by private business with support
                                               from local governments.

                                               The Sysav Company in Malmö, Sweden (a consortium of 7/8
                                               local governments) has a really impressive purpose-built
                                               centre the size of a large supermarket where the public and
                                               trades-people can buy a huge range of materials collected and
                                               sold for reuse by the company.

Separate collection and recycling
Recycling can save from 1.5 to 5 times more energy than is generated by incineration.
The waste management within local governments usually includes ‘doorstep collection’ of
some waste streams such as household waste, paper and cardboard, organic waste, and
metals. How and how often each of the waste streams will be collected (weekly, monthly
etc.) requires an assessment and monitoring of the waste produced. The local
governments can choose the way they want to organise the waste management services
for their citizens. These include self-provision, public-private partnerships, contracting,

The local governments usually also keep ‘Civic amenity sites’, which accept different
wastes such as glass, textile, construction and demolition waste, garden waste, batteries,
WEEE etc. These sites accept waste during certain opening hours under the supervision of
municipal personnel.

Some basic principles on separate collection include:
       Organise separate collection of relevant waste streams; paper, glass, plastics,
       metal (aluminium & steel); based on the waste produced, decide the time interval
       of efficient doorstep collection
       Set up recycling targets 4 – both for the council offices and the whole municipality
       - and design measures of how to reach these targets
       Monitor the waste generation continuously
       Collaborate with local businesses to create markets for recycled products and
       Promote home composting

                                               Since 1997, residents of Milton-Keynes, in the UK, have been
                                               involved in home composting. They can buy home composting
                                               bins from the Council at close to cost price or make their own
                                               composting bin. A large information campaign has been
                                               carried out, mainly through the Council’s ‘Messenger’
                                               magazine, two or three times a year, and permanently
                                               through the Council’s Internet site.

  Directives 2002/95/EC on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic
equipment and 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment are designed to tackle the fast
increasing waste stream of electrical and electronic equipment and complements European Union measures on
landfill and incineration of waste. This directive is currently under revision.
  Packaging waste Directive 94/62/EC sets targets for each country for the recovery and reuse of used

Waste disposal
If the local government decides to use incineration for waste disposal, it is important to
recover energy from the process. The best efficiency can be reached if the incineration
plant produces combined power and heat. It is also important to be careful in limiting the
emissions of the plant. European legislation exists on limiting emissions of certain
pollutants into the air from large combustion plants, namely SO2, NOx and dust.

Landfilling should be the last option for waste treatment. For example Flanders banned
landfilling of municipal solid waste in 1997 and in 2004 more than 71% of all municipal
solid waste was collected separately for recycling or composting. It is important to reduce
the adverse effects of the landfill of waste on the environment, in particular on surface
water, groundwater, soil, air and human health. Again, European legislation on this
matter exists applying to all landfills (municipal waste, hazardous waste, non-hazardous
waste and inert waste) 5 .

Decision on the waste disposal          method depends on local circumstances. Flanders is a very
densely populated area where             there is simply no space for land filling. In other parts of
Europe, new state-of-the-art              landfills can be more efficient way of disposal than
incineration (without energy             recovery). For example, the transport costs of waste
management need to be taken             into account in the assessment of viable disposal schemes.

Special waste streams

Hazardous waste
Hazardous waste poses a greater risk to the environment and human health than non
hazardous waste and thus needs a stricter control regime. It requires additional record
keeping, monitoring and control from the ‘cradle to the grave’ 6 . An extensive list of
hazardous wastes can to be found in Annex I and II of the Directive 91/689/EEC on
hazardous waste.

Some basic instructions for all local governments include:
       Audit on what hazardous wastes are used by local government
       Planning procedures and recording of their disposal
       Avoid purchasing products with hazardous chemicals
       Train staff to take care of the hazardous waste safely

Within your community:
        Provide instructions for citizens on how to dispose of hazardous waste such as
        batteries, oils etc.

Construction and demolition waste
Local governments can promote and facilitate the recycling of construction and demolition
waste. As described in the sustainable construction and green public procurement fact
sheets, local governments can require that the constructors recycle their waste when
contracted by public authorities. Also the disposal costs encourage the construction
industry to recycle. If the construction companies want to dispose the construction and
demolition waste in an inert landfill, where it is cheaper, the waste needs to be genuinely
inert i.e. without for example plastic and wood material. This should motivate for recycling
of certain waste fractions.

Involving the community in waste prevention and management

  Council Directive 99/31/EC on the landfill of waste aims to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects
on the environment from the land filling of waste, by introducing stringent technical requirements for waste and
   This is laid down in Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, as amended by Directive 94/31/EEC.

In order to encourage waste prevention and better results in waste management, the local
population needs to be involved. Try to create ownership of the waste prevention and
management schemes. Usually a mix of different instruments is required to reach good
results in waste management.

Therefore the local government should consider better engaging the citizens through;
        Organising public awareness campaigns and consult citizens when setting up
        waste prevention and waste management programmes e.g. community seminars,
        stakeholder briefings, community advisory panels, public exhibitions, press &
        media, communications strategies, regular updates etc.
        Organising special campaigns to educate children
        Setting a good example through green procurement and efficient separate
        Using ‘the polluter pays principle’ and setting a waste tax that depends on the
        amount of waste produced, and different tariffs depending on the waste stream
        (e.g. the bag/box used for mixed waste is more expensive than for example a bag
        for plastic bottles)
        Control and set special fines for littering to discourage waste dumping

Where to find more information?
       Guidance on preparing waste management plans
       EEA database on success stories on waste prevention
       EEA report on successful examples on waste minimisation practices
       Guidance on ‘buy as you throw’ schemes for domestic waste collection
       EEA guidance on treatment of biodegradable waste
       Guide for local and regional governments: Selective collection and recycling of
       waste electrical and electronic equipment
       Summary brochure and guide for local and regional governments: “Towards
       Sustainable Plastic Construction and Demolition Waste Management in Europe”
       Association      for     cities   and     regions     for     recycling     (ACR+)
       Educational material related to recycling
       http://www.recyclingglass.co.uk/ (glass recycling)
       http://www.ollierecycles.com/uk/html/steel.html (steel recycling)