Still Only One Earth: Progress in the 40 Years Since the First UN Conference on the Environment
A Change of Emphasis: Waste to Resource Management
Published:16 Jul 2015
I. D. Williams, in Still Only One Earth: Progress in the 40 Years Since the First UN Conference on the Environment, ed. R. M. Harrison and R. E. Hester, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015, pp. 207-252.
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It is 40 years since the waste hierarchy was introduced in the European Union. During this period the World has changed significantly, with massive changes in population, socio-economic and demographic circumstances, politics, consumption of goods and services, range and type of products available, energy and water consumption, etc. We have seen an increase in public awareness and education relating to environmental issues, public consultation on matters such as the siting of waste facilities, and the development of thinking and actions relating to sustainable development. Nevertheless, we still generate enormous quantities of waste that require treatment, and in some cases, disposal. This chapter will look at how waste management has evolved towards resource management during the last 40 years using the structure of the waste hierarchy as a template. It will discuss how our strategic approach to waste (resource) management has developed in the context of changing international and national policies, technology and consumption, and how our understanding of human behaviour relating to waste and resources has evolved. It will also consider how certain waste streams have altered or come on-line over this period and how the circular economy has burst onto the scene.