How to ... recover
Recovering valuable materials from the waste stream benefits everybody:
- government agencies benefit by reducing operating costs (e.g. waste disposal costs) through more efficient use of expensive resources
- industry benefits by gaining a source of valuable recovered waste materials and new markets for services and products
- the community benefits from reduced waste costs and improved environmental quality
- the environment benefits from reduced pressure on natural resources (e.g. mining and forestry reserves) and impacts from waste disposal.
Recovery of materials includes a number of actions or processes often lumped under the word 'recycling'. Some terms included under the broad heading of 'recycling' are:
- source separation - recyclable materials are separated at the point of generation (e.g. an office or home) into different streams for recycling
- post-collection material sorting - recoverable materials are pulled out of mixed waste by machines or by hand at a specialised waste facility for recycling
- reuse - materials or products are used again without substantially changing their original shape or form.
- composting - organic wastes (food scraps, vegetation waste etc) are processed to make a range of organic products such as mulches and soil conditioners.
- waste-to-energy - a range of technologies where waste is used as a fuel. It is sometimes used to generate electricity.
Where possible, minimise contamination of recovered material with unrecyclable material. This ensures clean raw materials are available to be remade into new products and keeps the cost of these products down. 'Recovery' is about pulling materials out of the waste stream and turning them into valuable resources. By thinking of waste as a resource and buying recycled content products we can help to reduce the impact of our consumer lifestyle on the environment.
Find out how wastes are managed in your organisation. Look at:
- types and quantities of waste being generated
- waste management and recycling infrastructure (e.g. types of bins used, where they are located etc)
- who provides waste services to your organisation
- how and where it is disposed of
- how much it costs to dispose of your waste.
You may need to identify and work on a particular waste stream to start with. A Waste Assessment
can help with this process by identifying how your recycling system is working and if there are any problems.
- Quantify amounts of waste and materials being recovered. The best way to do this is by doing a waste audit.
- Identify where valuable recoverable materials are being put into the general waste stream.
- Identify where the greatest potential improvements can be made to the existing system. This could be in terms of reducing cross contamination, increasing recycling rates, improving services provided by contract cleaners etc.
- Look at changes that can be made in your operations to avoid the generation of waste.
- Consider the alternative uses that can be made of existing wastes to turn them into a resource for your or other organisations to use
- Prioritise - tackle a couple of easy wastes first and then move on to larger or more difficult ones.
- Identify key players and stakeholders managing waste and recycling systems and work with them to improve practices.
- Educate staff, management and contractors on proposed improvements to waste management and recovery systems.
Page last updated: 27 February 2011