Why is it necessary to segregate waste at source?

Why is it necessary to segregate waste at source.

Next up in the team’s advice-led series, is an exploration into the segregation of waste at source. It’s a topic that people heavily immersed in the waste and recycling industry perhaps know inside out, but as environmental issues become a more mainstream concern, businesses of all shapes and sizes – as well as members of the general public – are also exploring the pros and cons of segregating.

Here, UNTHA UK’s service coordinator Julie Cassidy delves into the topic in laymen’s terms…

Waste generation has increased rapidly in recent years, and there’s sadly no sign of it slowing down. Across the globe, estimates show that over two billion metric tonnes of municipal solid waste and nine billion metric tonnes of industrial waste are produced each year – and these figures are expected to surge by up to 70% in less than 30 years at the current rate.

These statistics, coupled with the revelation that only some 13% of disregarded material is recycled on a global level, brings an urgent need to adopt a more sustainable approach to handling the materials people so easily dispose of.

But why does this matter?

With such immense volumes of refuse being directed to landfill to decompose, albeit slowly, in a compacted environment, the lack of oxygen spurs bacterial growth and the release of potent methane gas into the atmosphere. And we all know this is a problem.

However, segregating wastes at source – before they are disposed of – means there is a greater likelihood of the materials remaining free from contaminants. Cardboard will soon be rendered pretty useless, for instance, if it’s covered in tomato soup.

Pre-sorted and more uniform material streams can then be sent for the most appropriate onward treatment, for maximum chance of reuse and recycling. Waste technologies can be used to sort and separate many types of materials of course, but if the intensity of the process can be reduced, why not?

Cost vs. benefit

To elaborate on this point, waste and recycling professionals constantly give careful consideration to whether a) the process is commercially viable, and b) if there will be a net environmental gain after energy has been exerted to segregate the materials, for instance. There’s no clear cut answer here.

However, for the purpose of this blog and for the benefit of members of the general public, the segregation of waste in your workplace and home represents a simple step that goes a long way to prolonging the lifespan of various material streams. It’s also a great example of us each taking responsibility for the part we play in the planet’s environmental agenda, and ‘doing our bit’ when we can.

Recyclable revenue streams

I’ve briefly mentioned the costs and benefits of segregation, but in the workplace it’s also important to think about the ability to even generate a revenue stream from the segregation – and sale – of recyclable materials.

Instead of paying a waste contractor for a specified number of collections per month, for instance, it is often possible to sell clean, pre-sorted recyclable materials! So, waste disposal costs go down, and you can yield an income in the process. We’ve recently been talking to lots of customers about pallet waste and the business case for pallet shredding, for this very reason.

What can you do?

But the key thing to remember, is that change requires a collective effort. In the home, speak as a family about what can be recycled and the simple separation steps you can take – and if you’re not sure, refer to guidance from your local authority.

In the workplace, it’s not the role of one person either. So from rolling out and educating teams on new ‘green’ policies and procedures, to placing helpful signage throughout your space so people have reminders on what to do, everyone can and should play a part. It’s no use implementing a new strategy if the full scope of your organisation isn’t motivated to get involved.

The role of shredding

Shredders excel in liberating multifaceted materials that could otherwise remain locked in products. The breakdown of WEEE is a fantastic example of this, because downstream recycling equipment would struggle to do its job otherwise.

But UNTHA shredders are also heavily relied upon to help transform materials into an on-specification output product that can be sent for reuse, remanufacturing, recycling or even energy recovery. All of this results in diversion from landfill, which – to go back to my earlier point – is critical.

Our high throughput industrial shredders are safe, energy efficient, easy to maintain and cost effective – with options available for businesses of all sizes. So, if you’d like to raise the bar in both an economical and environmental sense, or you’d simply like to talk more about the segregation of waste at source, get in touch

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