Waste or rubbish is what people throw away because they no longer need it or want it. Almost everything we do creates waste and as a society we are currently producing more waste than ever before. We do this at home and at work. The fact that we produce waste, and get rid of it, matters for the following reasons:
- when something is thrown away we lose the natural resources, the energy and the time which have been used to make the product. The vast majority of resources that we use in manufacturing products and providing services cannot be replaced. The use of these resources cannot go on indefinitely – we would run out.
- when something is thrown away we are putting pressure on the environment’s ability to cope – in terms of the additional environmental impacts associated with extracting the new resources, manufacturing and distributing the goods, and in terms of the environmental impacts associated with getting rid of our rubbish.
- when something is thrown away we are failing to see it as a resource. It is well understood that what is waste to one person may not be viewed as waste by another. A good example of this is scrap metal which has been recycled for many years. Increasingly people are realising that it makes economic sense as well as environmental sense to use “waste” rather than just throw it away.
The process of using up the earth’s natural resources to make products which we then throw away, sometimes a very short time later, is not “sustainable” – in other words, it cannot continue indefinitely.
The way in which we consume materials will affect whether we have a sustainable society that leaves resources available for future generations to use. As consumers and producers, we are central to the concept of sustainability. We need to think about how we can use fewer resources (“get more out of less”), how we can make products last for longer (which means we use less and we throw away less) and how we can do better things with our so-called “waste” than throw it away. We need to see “waste” as a “resource”.