Recycling is often stressed as an important part of waste management, but currently, in the United States, only about 13% of plastic packaging gets recycled.
Experts insist that circular waste management, also known as a circular economy, is the best way to deal with the excess of wasted materials. Yet, how can changes be made to modern recycling to make circular waste management more effective?
What Is Circular Waste Management?
Circular waste management focuses on reusing, recycling, and manufacturing responsibly. It follows the idea that materials will be reused over and over again to reduce the number of substances going into landfills.
The three main principles of a circular economy are to eliminate litter and pollution, continue reusing the same products, and restore natural systems. To achieve those, we also need to avoid mining and extracting new materials as much as possible.
Here are some methods to keep materials in the cycle:
- Reducing Waste – waste management companies work with individuals to reduce the amount of waste created.
- Increased Recycling – encouraging individuals to recycle no matter where they are can help more materials be reused.
- Extracting Value from Organics – finding ways to make transporting food waste less problematic could benefit economics and the environment.
- Creating Energy from Waste – waste management is finding ways to convert the waste that isn’t recycled into energy. Methane from landfills can be converted to energy or fuel.
- Reducing Residuals – waste management is also working on converting residuals that come from recycling into fuel.
It sounds simple enough, but a circular economy for recyclable materials needs national attention to be successful. It’s great to have communities with good recycling programs, but there are still many places around the world with little to no recycling efforts.
Without consistent recycling around the world, circular waste management can’t be achieved. Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with modern recycling that cause barriers.
Circular Waste Management And Hazardous Waste
While many people understand that it’s important to recycle products like plastic, paper, and glass, the circular economy consists of more than just that. Many people dispose of hazardous waste improperly, which only fills up landfills further and causes them to contaminate the environment.
Most hazardous waste comes from businesses, but some items in your household could be considered hazardous, such as pesticides, solvent-based paints, and batteries. Instead of throwing these in the trash like everything else, find out where you can safely recycle these items in your area.
If hazardous waste isn’t properly disposed of, it can harm the planet. When in doubt, contact a professional like Hayward Environmental Consulting to find out how to dispose of your hazardous waste. For circular waste management to be successful, all types of waste need to be correctly disposed of.
The Problem With Modern Recycling
The biggest downside to modern recycling is confusion among the public. Many people are uncertain about which items can be recycled, especially since they can vary between different locations.
Not enough access to recycling bins is also a major problem in society. Some places are full of recycling bins, including ones for specific types of recyclable materials. However, some businesses and cities lack access to any recycling bins.
Without a nearby recycling bin, people feel like their only choice is to throw recyclables in the trash. Many people aren’t willing to go out of their way to find a place to recycle, which is a reason there need to be more recycling bins.
Outdated infrastructure also makes it harder to achieve a circular economy for waste management. Right now, it’s difficult to take out the plastic materials that were put in with the waste. So, when plastic gets thrown away, there’s not much that can be done at that point.
Ways To Improve Recycling Practices
To achieve circular waste management, we need to focus on finding ways to make recycling more efficient. Of course, encouraging individuals to recycle more is a great start, but that’s difficult to do without improvements on a large scale too.
Currently, “virgin plastic” is the most commonly used plastic because it’s the cheapest. Yet, it’s made from oil and natural gas instead of recycled materials. To achieve proper circular waste management, production companies need to move away from virgin plastic and focus more on recycled and reused content instead.
Luckily, many companies are already making a difference. Several major beverage companies in the U.S. now rely on 100% recycled plastic bottles. Hopefully, more will soon follow behind. By reducing the amount of virgin plastic used, more plastic can be recycled over and over again to reduce waste on this planet.
Yet, even with the efforts of many companies, the problem is still bigger. Government action could make modern recycling more efficient and accessible for everyone. Right now, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and American Beverage Association (ABA) are working on a policy to fix some of these recycling issues.
The policy is called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and it would create a better, more efficient circular waste management system in the United States. It would be operated by the companies that produce recyclable materials, and it would help make more packaging recyclable and reusable. It could also help recycling expectations become more consistent across the country.
Studies show that the majority of the public supports the EPR policy, so it’s time to make that change. With a better policy in place, the public will feel more confident in recycling, and fewer materials would be wasted. Yet, even when these changes are made on a larger scale, each individual person needs to continue recycling and doing their part to keep the environment healthy.
Why Is Circular Waste Management So Important?
Circular waste management is the key to reducing waste on this planet. The more materials that are used, the fewer resources that are wasted, and the less waste that’s put into the environment. Many things are improving in terms of waste management, but there’s still so much to be done.