Educational Programs for Recycling and Repurposing of Solid Waste
Waste management is an important concern throughout the world. Sites for waste disposal are increasingly becoming limited, and improper management of waste leads to environmental degradation. Single-Stream recycling and waste management facilities are not accessible and affordable for all. While food waste can be composted, this option is unavailable for many types of solid waste such as clothing, plastics, paper, and glass. The improper disposal of solid waste that cannot decompose has contributed to environmental degradation.
However, such items need not just be thrown away. Reusing, Recycling, and Repurposing waste is a sustainable way to reduce the amount of waste that is produced by creating a new use or purpose for the material. This cuts down on the amount of waste that is produced; the waste actually can become a valuable resource for communities that is sustainable and is of little cost or free.
Context within NORA
Being at Home– The methods of waste disposal impact the area and home where one lives. Improper disposal of waste can lead to health and environmental hazards in the home and the surrounding area.
Self-expression– Repurposing waste allows for self-expression through arts and crafts. It allows the individual to think creatively to create a new purpose for waste or create art for decoration.
Opportunities to learn– the introduction of recycling and repurposing programs is a way to educate individuals on how they affect the environment and on new ways of managing their waste. Having education on this could eventually lead individuals to share this information with others.
Meaningful livelihoods– some individuals or groups are taking the opportunities to learn about recycling with the purpose of creating livelihoods for themselves and the communities they live in.
Participation-The individual who participates in recycling and repurposing is contributing to the effort toward sustainability. Democratic participation is often needed in order to ensure that waste id disposed of properly, without creating hazards.
Water– Waste management has an impact on marine water. Solid waste that is recyclable or reusable finds its way to bodies of water that are habitats for living things.
Land– increasing amounts of land are being used for waste disposal, avoiding waste in the first place helps reduce the need for using land in this way.
Physical, human-made assets– furniture, casings, plastics, paper, aluminum, etc., enter the solid waste stream. These materials and items can instead become resources by being reused, recycled, and repurposed.
Self-provisioning cluster – individuals and institutions reducing the amount of waste they produce and taking the initiative to reuse, recycle, and repurpose the items they have no use for.
Community solidarity cluster and Committed services or sales – Policies can encourage community efforts in reducing waste, such as recycling centers and thrift stores. This allows for these resources to be available and accessible in the community so that people will more likely decide to manage their waste in a sustainable way.
Understanding Current Patterns of Abundance and Scarcity
Problems of Solid Waste Disposal
This page focuses on municipal solid waste and industrial solid waste that cannot be composted. The materials that typically make up these categories of solid waste are glass, plastics, paper, tin, metals, and cloth. In industrialized nations these wastes are taken to a landfill that is reserved for municipal waste. These materials do not compost so they accumulate, gradually using up available landfill space. In richer nations, residents oppose the creation of new landfills near where they live, making new landfill space scarce and expensive. As a result, some waste management companies export waste to poorer nations where there is little to no regulation of the disposal of waste. When waste is not regulated it is thrown into the environment, burned, or buried; waste also spreads into bodies of water. One example of the effects of such disposal is discussed in Omfonmwan & Eseigbe (2009).
An example of how solid waste finds its way into the environment is the "garbage patch" in the Pacific Ocean. The "garbage patch" is a mass of floating plastic waste that is estimated to be twice the size of Texas (Liddick, 2010). These plastics are then consumed by the marine life and makes their way throughout the food chain, leading to the premature death of many animals. How we dispose of waste has an impact on the environment and the environment has an effect on all areas of our lives. Although waste cannot be eliminated completely the goal is to reduce the amount of waste production by reusing, recycling, and repurposing waste.
A study in Europe explained that one of the obstacles to waste management is bringing awareness to individual households (Odufuwa, 2012). This study recommended public educational programs that focused on waste disposal, management, accessibility to disposal sites, and waste separation.
Education for Waste Reduction
Part of the problem regarding solid waste is that most ordinary people know little about alternatives for waste disposal. This can be addressed by integrating environmental education into existing school curricula, involving students along with teachers and staff in implementation. Through these programs students gain knowledge to carry with them outside of the school. As an example, see the websites of the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, below. The goal is that ultimately, household participation in recycling is increased in the general population.
"Waste" materials can also be used creatively for making art or crafts objects. This is educational both in promoting understanding of the need to avoid waste, and of learning craft skills. The Art of Recycle website provides relevant resources and links to programs.
Similar programs can also be adopted at other institutions, such as correctional institutions in Ohio. In 2007 Ohio’s government implemented an order to reduce waste and improve energy consumption state wide. Part of this plan was to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75%. This plan was tested at the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The government created a three year sustainability plan; the staff and offenders created recycling programs and various grassroots projects. Along with the recycling project an environmental literacy program was implemented that gave offenders an understanding of why they were being unsustainable and the effects they had on the environment and community. By eliminating trash bags and limiting the use of paper towels they were able to save $130,000 annually and by partnering with a local institution they were able to reach a goal of 98.2 percent waste free rate (Hildebrand, 2013).
In Germany, advising individual residents and businesses concerning the reduction and recycling of waste has become a commonplace service of local government, referred to as "Abfallberatung." This professionalizes education regarding waste, and helps to extend it beyond school students to the population at large.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- The total amount of packaging waste is enormous and people often cannot avoid purchasing items with a lot of packaging. This can overwhelm individual efforts for recycling and repurposing.
- The level of household awareness of recycling and repurposing waste is low and it is usually a free choice in how an individual disposes of their waste.
- Waste companies that do recycle and separate waste often charge so those in a lower socioeconomic status may not be able to afford these resources.
- Sending things to recycling centers is in itself not sufficient – these items have to be actually recycled and the recycled materials have to find a market. Policies have to ensure that it is economically worthwhile to use recycled materials.
- The majority of plastics, glass, and other forms of solid waste can be repurposed in homes and used multiple times after their initial use.
- When children learn of sustainable disposal of waste they often carry that knowledge into their homes and implement it.
- When implemented properly recycling, reducing, reusing, and repurposing lowers the amount of waste institutions produce and send out to landfills.
Abfallberatung (Link to local government programs on waste reduction in Germany; in German)
Art of Recycle, Guide to creative reuse and scrapstore centers worldwide
Breene, Sophia. November 2013, How to recycle anything (the sustainable way)
City of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Environmental Protection Agency (USA). Common Waste and Materials (information on recycling)
Kidhaven, 2012. Waste not, Want not: Seven greener ways to get rid of things
Recycling Centers.org, Search function for recycling centers in the US
Check also the NORA page on Electronic Waste
Hildebrand, J. (2013). Ohio Implements Energy Conservation and Sustainability Initiatives. Corrections Today, 75(1), 40-48.
Liddick, D. (2010). The traffic in garbage and hazardous wastes: an overview. Trends In Organized Crime, 13(2/3), 134-146.
Odufuwa, B. A., Odufuwa, B. O., Ediale, O. M., & Oriola, S. (2012). Household Participation in Waste Disposal and Management in Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. Journal Of Human Ecology, 40(3), 247-254.
Omfonmwan, S.I., & Eseigbe, J.O. (2009). Effects of Solid Waste on the Quality of Underground Water in Benin Metropolis, Nigeria. Journal of Human Ecology, 26(2), 99-105.
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