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Waste Management Controls the Flow of the Waste Stream

Garbage and Recycling
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Understanding waste, the waste stream, and waste management methods is an indispensible component of citizen and community interaction. Waste, itself, is unwanted or unusable materials. By understanding waste generation, the waste stream, and methods of waste disposal, organizing and administering sound waste disposal programs reduces the negative environmental impact created by waste production.

 What is the waste stream?

The waste stream is a term employed to define the flow of solid waste generated by homes, businesses, and industries that is disposed of through recycling, incineration, or is deposited in landfills. Reducing the flotsam and jetsam filling the waste stream has become the focus of many communities waste disposal systems. Among the methods now employed by communities are recycling, reusing, and composting with incineration and landfill disposal employed as final stage processes.

Recycling

Collecting and sorting waste materials in order to create new materials has become the central component of waste reduction programs. When recycling in communities first began to appear, what could be recycled was limited to a handful of items. As demand increased for recycling opportunities, processing methods have improved and refined.

Today, instead of requiring home and business owner to sort the vast array of material into multiple bins, municipalities, are moving to a three-bin system: recyclable, compostable, and everything that is left, recyclables being processed using highly efficient single stream recycling methods. This expansion of what is reused, either through recycling or composting, has lessened the volume of waste designated for incineration or the landfill and diminished their environmental impact as well.

Incineration

Burning to dispose waste products has also evolved. Most communities have abandoned open burning, as the need for emission and fire control is important. Today, high temperature thermal treatment plants incinerate waste products, reducing their bulk by more than 80% of their original volume, leaving only ash at the bottom of the incinerator. These plants also convert the energy generated from incineration into electricity, used by the treatment plant itself, or diverted to the energy grid. An added benefit of thermal treatment is that incinerating medical and other hazardous wastes at high temperatures contains and destroys pathogens and other toxins.

Landfill disposal

The axiom “Stuff expands to fill all available space” has a particular application to landfills. Because of the lack of available space in urban areas and dangers to the environment, efficient management of landfills is crucial. Random dumping of waste is no longer the norm, and landfills generally accept only materials that cannot be disposed through recycling, composting or incineration. Fortunately, these methods of waste management have gained widespread favor, and reduced the burden placed on landfill sites and extended their viability.

Careful landfill management eliminates contaminants deposited into landfills, making the land reusable once the landfill has reached capacity. Reclamation efforts have converted old landfills into parks, golf courses, or industrial and commercial developments.

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