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A holistic overview of global waste, focussing on food supply chain waste (FSCW) and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) as two exemplars of resource important waste, is reported. The planet currently generates approximately 1.3 Gt of solid waste per year, which is expected to increase to 2.2 Gt by 2025. There is an urgent need to recover value (valorise) from this waste rather than landfilling, composting, anaerobic digestion and/or incineration.

FSCW is a good example of a pre‐consumer type of waste generated on a large scale in every country on the planet and may account for over 50% of the total waste produced in many countries; 60% of it is organic matter. FSCW as a biomass resource with a significant potential to be employed as a raw material for the production of fuels and chemicals is discussed. Citrus peel, from which limonene and pectin may be extracted, and food waste emanating from Hong Kong that has the potential to yield platform molecules (i.e. next generation chemical building blocks derived from biomass) are highlighted as case studies.

WEEE is the fastest growing segment of municipal solid waste, accounting for 3–5% of incoming materials. Production of modern electrical and electronic equipment is resource intensive, using up to 60% of the elements in the Periodic Table including those deemed critical. WEEE serves as a lucrative above ground ‘urban mine’ for future supply of critical elements. An overview of resource efficiency with respect to liquid crystal displays, which are a source of glass, liquid crystals and indium, is given.

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