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    Waste, rubbish, trash, garbage, or junk is unwanted or undesired material. "Waste" is the general term; though the other terms are used loosely as synonyms, they have more specific meanings: rubbish or trash are mixed household waste and including paper and packaging; food waste or garbage (North America) is kitchen and table waste; and junk or scrap is metallic or industrial material. There are other categories of waste as well: sewage, ash, manure, and plant materials from garden operations, including grass cuttings, fallen leaves, and pruned branches.

Though the cleanliness of public streets has long been a public responsibility, it was only towards the end of the 19th century that waste collection and disposal began to be considered part of the public health and sanitation function of municipalities.[citation needed]

Some components of waste can be recycled once recovered from the waste stream, e.g. plastic bottles, metals, glass or paper. The biodegradable component of wastes (e.g. paper & food waste) can be composted or anaerobically digested to produce soil improvers and renewable fuels. If it is not dealt with in a sustainable manner, biodegradable waste can thus contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and by implication climate change.[1]

There are two main definitions of waste. One view comes from the individual or organisation producing the material, the second is the view of Government, and is set out in different acts of waste legislation. The two have to combine to ensure the safe and legal disposal of the waste.[2]


Waste definitions

European definition of waste

The European Union defines waste as an object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard is waste under the Waste Framework Directive (European Directive 75/442/EC as amended).

Once a substance or object has become waste, it will remain waste until it has been fully recovered and no longer poses a potential threat to the environment or to human health."[3]

United Kingdom's definition of waste

The UK's Environmental Protection Act 1990 indicated waste includes any substance which constitutes a scrap material, an effluent or other unwanted surplus arising from the application of any process or any substance or article which requires to be disposed of which has been broken, worn out, contaminated or otherwise spoiled; this is supplemented with anything which is discarded otherwise dealt with as if it were waste shall be presumed to be waste unless the contrary is proved. This definition was amended by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 defining waste as:

"any substance or object which the producer or the person in possession of it, discards or intends or is required to discard but with exception of anything excluded from the scope of the Waste Directive".[4]

South Africa's definition of waste

South Africa defines five categories of "General" waste [5]:

  • Domestic waste
  • Garden refuse
  • Commercial waste
  • Dry industrial waste
  • Construction & demolition waste

Other types of waste include Hazardous waste, Medical waste, and Abattoir waste.

Cultural dynamics of waste

  In addition to these points above, there is also an important cultural dimension to waste. "Wasting time," "wasting money," "wasting good food" or "being wasteful" in innumerable ways involves moral judgments that carry a great deal of weight in human interaction and that differ in the societies of the world and even within those societies.

For example: chefs from different culinary traditions prize cuts of meat that other countries' chefs will "waste"; parents may view a child's career in a rock band as a "waste" of their education (an opinion not shared by the child, who may feel they have found their calling); and so on. The expenditure of money on matters which attract disapproval may be described as "wasting money" independently of the economic underpinning of the transactions concerned. An example of this in popular culture is the T-shirt and poster slogan "I spent most of my money on beer, women and cigarettes - the rest of it I just wasted."

These varying conceptions of waste frequently impact environmental decision-making in societies different from, those of Europe, North America, Australia, etc., which have a rough consensus on environmentalist values.[6][7][8][9]

See also


  1. ^ The Landfill Directive Defra
  2. ^ Torbay Council (2006) Municipal Waste Management Strategy for Torbay, Consultation Draft
  3. ^ The Definition of Waste Waste Definition, Agrarian
  4. ^ Waste explained CIWM
  5. ^ Chapter 3. GUIDELINES ON WASTE COLLECTION IN HIGH DENSITY & UNSERVICED AREAS. South African Government Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  6. ^ Scanlan, John (2005). On Garbage. London: Reaktion Books
  7. ^ Casper, Monica J. (ed) (2003). Synthetic Planet: Chemical Politics and the Hazards of Modern Life. London and New York: Routledge
  8. ^ Carrier, James G. (ed) (2004). Confronting Environments: Local Understanding in a Globalizing World. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira
  9. ^ Douglas, Mary (1966). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London and New York: Routledge.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Waste". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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