Solid waste is any solid or semisolid garbage, refuse, or rubbish, sludge (from any facility involved in the treatment of air, wastewater, or water supply), and other discarded material, including any contained liquid or gaseous material, remaining from industrial, commercial, institutional activities and residential or community activities.
Note: This includes medical waste but not sewage or septic liquid discharge.
Waste or Resource
Solid waste often contains recoverable resources which can be used in re-manufacturing. What some would see as a waste, may be a resource to others. Capturing these resources can reduce the depletion of non-renewables and impacts such as carbon-induced climate change.
While this recycling of resources is rarely financially viable without some assistance, the consequential social and environmental costs of not recovering those materials are substantial.
Advance recycling charges and deposit refund schemes (where the cost of recovery is built into the purchase of the original product), user pays systems such as collection charges or even hypothecated funding from related areas such as Airport departure taxes, have all been used successfully to get resource recovery functioning and keeping the waste system financially sustainable.
Solid waste often has an impact beyond its immediate environmental consequence. It impacts on people’s quality of life and their motivation to assist with environmental management.
It is difficult to get communities to change behavior to improve their future if their present is blighted by poor waste management. The costs of good solid waste management can be significant and the challenge is to make that expenditure are cost-effective as possible. That will ensure the impacts on the national budgets is minimised while also reducing the costs to public health, the tourism industry or the natural environment.
Waste is visible and real to the community. Unlike important issues such as bio-diversity, or climate change, changes in waste management are quickly apparent. This means that waste management is an ideal avenue to engage the community on sustainable living. Studies show that those who manage their wastes are more likely to reduce energy or water consumption.
Just as importantly, the community can reduce the costs of waste management through their actions. Not only is community involvement sensible from an environmental perspective – it can save money.
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