From “dilute and disperse” …
Once upon a time, the amount of waste generated was considered small enough to be diluted in the environment. With massive industrialization and urbanization, a new concept followed this somewhat optimistic view: “concentrate and contain”. Its objective was to eliminate the waste or at least protect the population from its grasp, which generally involved either incineration or disposal in landfills. In most countries today this is still the solution.
… to “integrated waste management”
As the garbage pile gets higher and the environmental conscience sharpens, it is now recognized that producing waste at this rate is no longer acceptable. Now is the time for “integrated waste management” and its motto – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” (the famous 3 Rs) – a practice that most developing countries started to apply long before it was even formulated. As waste disposal strategies evolve, the consumption rates in the developed world are questioned and a surprisingly reasonable solution appears: why not consume less, or at least better?
Many solutions …
The range of waste management strategies is as wide as waste is diverse.
The basic steps are source reduction (educating, sorting, recycling, composting); collection and transport; treatment (incineration, chemical and biological treatments, etc.); and disposal (open dumps, sanitary landfills, deep-well geological disposals). These processes themselves generate what we could call “the waste of the waste” (incineration residues for example).
… but at what cost?
Sound waste management requires a high level of technology and a significant budget. What Japan and Germany can afford today, most countries will have to wait a long time for. Developed countries have a lot to learn from the recycling and reuse levels in developing countries.
Is your waste collected?
Waste collection is a basic public service performed for everyone in OECD countries. Everyone? Well, a closer look reveals that this is not the case for a significant number of people. If these developed countries can’t collect all their waste, imagine the situation in many developing countries, where resources are much scarcer and access is sometimes problematic.