There are many ways to deal with waste. In this lesson we will explore the integrated waste management system that combines many strategies. We will also discuss how you can participate in your own kitchen.
What Is Integrated Waste Management?
For many years, there has been a divide in how to deal with solid municipal waste. Some believe the answer is waste management, which is the process of managing waste that is created and implementing disposal methods that reduce harm to the environment. The second strategy is waste reduction, which is the process of reducing the total amount of waste produced and also using waste for alternative purposes. Which do you think is more important, managing waste or reducing waste?
Although many people have strong opinions about which strategy is preferred, there is a new plan for dealing with waste that combines the two opposing strategies. The system is called integrated waste management, which combines a variety of strategies for both waste management and waste reduction. Some common examples of waste management that are involved in integrated waste management are burying waste in sanitary landfills and burning waste in mass burn incinerators.
Integrated waste management can also include waste reduction methods, such as reusing, recycling and composting. It is thought by both scientists and economists that if integrated waste management is implemented on a large scale in the United States, that between 75-90% of municipal solid waste could be eliminated due to the variety of strategies in place.
Priorities of Integrated Waste Management
Although it might sound simple to implement integrated waste management by using a variety of waste strategies, it is actually more complex. The United States Academy of Science has designed a plan for implementing integrated waste management that includes three priorities.
The first priority involves the primary prevention of pollution and waste by requiring industries to eliminate or reduce the amount of harmful chemicals used in production, reduce packing materials for products and make products that last longer and are easier to recycle, reuse and repair. This first priority targets large industry and attempts to reduce the overall waste produced at the source.
The second priority targets small businesses and individuals and focuses on secondary prevention of pollution and waste. This step involves educating and encouraging people to buy reusable products, repair broken items, recycle, reuse products and compost.
The third priority is very different from the first two and focuses solely on waste management, including treating waste to reduce toxicity, burying or incinerating waste and releasing some waste into the environment for dispersal or dilution.
As you can now tell from the priorities of the integrated waste management system, for the system to work efficiently, more effort and attention need to be paid to waste reduction. Unfortunately, although the priorities were designed by scientists and backed by data, most countries, including the United States, still tend to focus more attention on waste management.
Example of Integrated Waste Management
Although integrated waste management is designed as a large-scale system, there are things you as an individual can do to support the system. You can set up your kitchen in a way that makes it possible to separate your waste into appropriate categories. To support waste reduction, you can designate a container for recyclables. In some cities, all recyclable materials can go in one container but in other cities, they must be divided into glass, metals, paper and plastic. For waste reduction, you can also set up a compost container where you collect food waste for composting.
Another way to support reduction is to designate a bag or container where you store plastic grocery bags. Instead of being thrown away, the bags can be reused and given a second life. For waste management, you can have a trash can where you place any waste that cannot be recycled, reused, composted or repaired. By setting up your kitchen in this manner, you will be helping the environment by reducing the total amount of waste produced and also making sure that only appropriate waste is being sent to landfills or mass burn incinerators.
Now, let's review integrated waste management, which is a system that combines a variety of strategies for both waste management and waste reduction. On one side of this system is waste management, which is the process of managing waste that is created and implementing disposal methods that reduce harm to the environment and involves the use of sanitary landfills and mass burn incinerators. On the other side of this system is waste reduction, which is the process of reducing the total amount of waste produced and also using waste for alternative purposes. Waste reduction includes methods such as recycling, reusing and composting.
Due to the variety of strategies that are incorporated into integrated waste management, a set of three priorities have been established. The first priority is primary prevention of pollution and waste by establishing guidelines for industry to reduce waste production. The second priority is secondary prevention of pollution and waste by individuals in the form of recycling, reusing and composting. The third priority is waste management and deals with handling waste properly once it has been disposed of.
Dealing with waste is a very large task due to the large amount of waste produced each year. Integrated waste management is a method that if implemented based on the priorities, can help reduce the total amount of waste produced, while also ensuring that waste is managed properly. Although you may not be able to tell a factory to use less plastic in their packaging, you can do your part by encouraging your legislators to encourage waste reduction and also by setting up your own integrated waste management system in your kitchen.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Describe integrated waste management
- Detail the three priorities of integrated waste management
- Explain how we can utilize this system at home