2. Waste Generation & Prevention (WGP)

|| Waste generation || refers to the volume or tonnage of solid waste generated prior to any recovery or disposal. Preventing and minimizing waste generation is widely considered to be more important than solid waste recovery and disposal; and it is prioritized first in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) sustainable materials management hierarchy. [1]

In an era of limited resources, the sustainable management of natural capital is increasingly at the forefront of international dialogue about how to achieve economic development without compromising human health and the environment. Avoiding wasting does both. Known generally as source reduction and reuse, these approaches reduce waste generation and maximize positive social value in terms of quality of life. Source reduction and reuse are addressed separately due to the difficulty of identifying and measuring impacts associated with prevention (e.g., how to count something that isn’t there).[2]

Per capita waste generation (including construction and demolition waste) is the best way to measure the growth or lack of growth in waste generation. As the economy changes along with the population — and the products and packages we use — per capita waste generation gives us the best picture of where we are heading and whether or not we are succeeding at preventing waste.

The WGP requirements of SWEEP take into account four key performance indicators (KPI):

  • Efficiency and Effectiveness
  • Environmental Performance
  • Economic Performance
  • Public Participation

[1] EPA is thinking beyond waste; and it has transitioned from focusing on waste management to focusing on Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials

[2] A related issue is the continued efforts by private industry that may have contradictory impacts upon the environment. Some examples include: the use of heavier gauge plastic bags to replace single use thin-walled plastic bags; substitution of single use paper straws for plastic; substitution of lightweight plastics for heavier but more recyclable glass and metal containers; and the introduction of difficult to recycle aseptic packaging to avoid food product loss in the absence of refrigeration.

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