What is Waste Management?

Waste management is a fundamental part of most businesses.

Waste management refers to the processes required to govern waste, from its creation to its disposal or reuse. These processes include the discarding, destruction, processing, reuse, recycle, and control, of waste materials.

The objective of effective waste management is to minimise the amount of non-reusable materials, as well as to protect the environment and general wellbeing of public health.

  • Waste management carried out with these objectives in mind provides significant cost savings to businesses and is good for the environment as well as the wider community.

Waste management in its wider sense includes a number of activities including supply chain management and selection of raw materials as well as the collection, regulation, disposal, or monitoring of waste materials.

  • Waste removal and management services may only be undertaken by a suitably authorized legal entity.  In Ireland this is typically a private sector waste management company.

Waste hierarchy is a tool which establishes preferred program priorities based on sustainability.

  • To be sustainable, waste management cannot be solved only with technical end-of-pipe solutions and an integrated approach is necessary.

The waste management hierarchy indicates an order of preference for action to reduce and manage waste, and is usually presented diagrammatically in the form of a pyramid. 

  • The hierarchy captures the progression of a material or product through successive stages of waste management, and represents the latter part of the life-cycle for each product.
  • The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste.
  • The proper application of the waste hierarchy can have several benefits and can help prevent emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce pollutants, save energy, conserves resources, create jobs and stimulate the development of green technologies.

Waste in Ireland

Ireland faces a number of challenges when it comes to recycling waste. According to an EPA report in 2020, Ireland created 2.9 million tons of municipal waste in 2018 and recycled only 38% of .  Ireland is also heavily dependent on exporting waste for recovery, reuse or disposal.

The 2020 target of recycling 50% of municipal waste and the 2035 target to dispose of 10% or less in landfills is currently an unattainable goal without major infrastructural change.

  • The unsustainable pressure on Irish waste management systems, as well as the over-reliance on exporting waste, must be tackled if Ireland is to increase its waste recycling in the years to come.