Waste management and recycling in cities

If cities are to be sustainable, they must manage their waste efficiently and cause the latest possible damage to the environment. The waste hierarchy to the left refers to the ‘3 Rs’: reduce, reuse and recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimisation. The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies. The aim is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste.

Dealing with the waste produced by any town or city is a huge issue. There is a political as well as an environmental dimension, for two reasons:

The EU and the UK government have produced targets for all local authorities (LAs) to reduce the waste buried in their landfill sites and to increase the proportion tat they recycle. LAs that do not reach their targets will be fined for burying more than their quota of waste in landfill sites.
The government suggested that LAs should consider charging households that throw away (without recycling) more waste than average and rewarding households that throw away less than average. A very loud campaign was launched against this by certain parts of the press, so the government appears to have backed down from this suggestion. However, it is clear that the problem of waste will not diminish ad some alternative approach will be needed.

Waste management methods vary widely between areas for many reasons, including type of waste material, nearby land uses and the area available.