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Say what? Waste Management terminology guide

By Bertie Lourens 7th February 2019 Waste Management

Every industry has its share of elusive acronyms and terminology. Here’s a glossary list to help you learn the lingo of the waste management industry.

  • Business waste:

Waste made by companies, retail, wholesale, entertainment, or the government.

  • Chemical waste:

Waste that is made from harmful chemicals.

  • Circular economy:

An economy regenerative by design, aiming to optimise the value of products, parts, and materials.

  • Clean production:

Manufacturing in which waste is minimised, and toxic prevention practices are continuously applied.

  • Closed-loop system:

A system that enhances supply chain sustainability, by recycling all of the materials in manufactured goods, usually to make the same type of product.

  • Commercial waste:

Waste from a trade or business, or activity related to sport, recreation, education or entertainment. It excludes household, agricultural or industrial waste.

  • Compost:

Decayed organic material, used as a fertiliser for growing plants.

  • Construction and Demolition waste (C & D):

Waste, excluding hazardous waste, that is produced during the construction, alteration, repair, or demolition of any structure.

  • CO2 Equivalence:

The amount or concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) within a greenhouse gas related to its projected impact on global warming.

  • Cradle to grave:

The tracking of waste, from the moment it enters a site to the eventual treatment or disposal of that material.

  • Domestic waste:

Material from businesses and households that cannot be recycled.

  • Duty of Care:

A moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others.

  • Ecosystem:

A system of relationships between animals and plants and their environment.

  • Electronic Waste (WEEE):

Any end-of-life item that has an electrical plug or electronic battery.

  • Extended Producer Responsibility:

Measures that extend a person’s financial or physical responsibility for a product to the post-consumer stage of the product.

  • Food waste:

Food intended for consumption that is lost or discarded along the food supply chain.

  • General waste:

Waste that does not pose an immediate hazard or threat to health or to the environment.

  • Greenhouse gas emission:

The generation of greenhouse gas - a gaseous compound capable of absorbing infrared radiation and on setting global warming.

  • Hazardous waste:

Gaseous, liquid or solid waste that has substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment.

  • Incineration:

The destruction of waste material through burning.

  • Inert waste:

Waste that does not undergo any significant physical, chemical or biological transformation after disposal, nor impact negatively on the environment.

  • Inorganic waste:

Non-biodegradable, chemical waste, of mineral origin. Example: aluminum cans.

  • Integrated waste management:

A combination of waste management approaches, including: source reduction, composting, incineration, recycling, and landfills.

  • Life-cycle assessment:

The evaluation of a product or service’s potential environmental impact over its entire life cycle.

  • Medical waste:

Any waste consisting wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood,other body fluids, excretions, drugs, or other pharmaceutical products, swabs,dressings,syringes, needles or other sharp instruments.

  • Mixed waste:

Any combination of waste types with different properties, ranging from biodegradable to inorganic waste.

  • Municipal solid waste:

A waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public.

  • Organic waste:

Biodegradable waste that comes from either a plant or an animal. Example: Food waste.

  • Recovery:

The collection and reuse of disposed materials.

  • Recycle:

A process where waste is reclaimed for further use, and processed as a product or raw material.

  • Renewable energy:

Energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind, hydro, or solar power.

  • Reuse:

To re-utilise articles from the waste stream for a similar or new purpose, without changing their form or properties.

  • Sustainability:

Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources, in order to maintain ecological balance.

  • Treatment:

Any method, technique, or process, which is designed to change the physical, biological, or chemical character or composition of a waste.

  • Waste generator:

An entity, by site, whose acts or processes generate solid waste.

  • Waste hierarchy:

The prioritisation of waste management options (in descending order) throughout its lifecycle.

  • Waste management:

The activities and actions required to manage waste, from its inception to its final disposal.

  • Waste minimisation:

To make every means possible to avoid and/or reduce the amount of waste and toxicity generated.

  • Waste reduction:

Using less material and energy to minimise waste generation, and preserve natural resources.

  • Waste to energy:

Generating fuel or energy in the form of electricity and/or heat, from waste.

  • Waste treatment facility:

Any site used to accumulate waste for the purpose of storage, recovery, treatment, reprocessing, recycling, or sorting of that waste.

  • Zero waste to landfill:

Waste management and planning approaches that emphasise waste prevention, as opposed to end-of-pipe waste management disposed in landfills.


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Bertie Lourens

Author Bertie Lourens

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