The waste hierarchy shows the best ways to avoid shrinkage of our valuable resources. 1 to 6 shows the most to the least preferred methods of disposal.
1. Prevention - most preferred
Minimize the amount of waste through various means of control. If we avoid the initial use of resource then we avoid wasting the resource. Don't buy what you don't need. Remember, when you buy something, you are buying the whole package, wrapping and all. Look for products whose design has minimised waste by creating a better product or better packaging. Select the products that use the least hazardous materials.
All items should be re-used to the greatest extent possible through substitution and postponing. Substitution is when no new materials are needed to fulfill the need. Postponing is when the life of the goods is extended through good maintenance practices, repair, cleaning and refurbishment. The goods don't become waste until further down the line.
2. Preparing for re-use
Checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which products or components of products that have become waste are prepared so that they can be re-used without any other pre-processing.‘
When raw material can be recycled, major resources are saved. Recycling is usually when the material is returned to its pure state to use for something else. This includes composing if it meets quality protocols.
Combustible waste is a resource for energy extraction. Although this step destroys the resource it is preferred to disposal by landfill or combustion without gaining the benefit of energy extraction.
5. Disposal - Least preferred
As a final step, deposit at a registered landfill or incineration without energy recovery. Incineration creates bottom ash which ends up in landfill. Landfill has to be carefully managed; it takes decades before a full remediation of the land is reached.