What is Waste and Why Does it Matter?

What is Waste?

The term waste is neither easy to define nor to delimit in scope. Waste can be seen as a parallax object, possessing a range of qualities, utility values and attitude attachments depending on one’s perspective. Waste is both filthy and valuable, toxic, yet useful – what waste is and how, why and to whom it matters varies greatly . Opinions diverge sharply on an appropriate definition of waste, both with respect to legal and operational uses of the term/ Table 1 below highlights several definitions of waste found within the literature

Table 1: Various definitions on the concept of waste

Author Definition
Baran (1959) Waste is the difference between the level of output of useful goods and services that would be obtained if all productive factors were allocated to their best and highest uses under rational social order, and the level that is actually obtained
Elwood (1993) Waste, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder
EU (1991) Waste shall mean any substance or object in the categories set out in Annex I, which the holder discards or is required to discard
Gutberlet  (2011) Waste is a potential resource
Hollander (1998) Waste  is  something  that  needs  to  be  expelled  in  order  that  the system continues to function
Lox (1994) Waste is either an output with (‘a negative market’) ‘no economic’ value from an industrial system or any substance or object that has ‘been  used  for  its  intended  purpose’  (or  ‘served  its  intended function’) by the consumer and will not be re-used
McKinnie (1986) Waste  is  the  unnecessary  costs  that  result  from  inefficient

practices, systems or controls

OECD (1994) Wastes are materials other than radioactive materials intended for Disposal
Pongracz (2002) Waste is an unwanted, but not avoided output, whence its creation was not avoided either because it was not possible, or because one failed to avoid it
Pongracz (2002) Waste is a man-made thing that has no purpose; or is not able to perform with respect to its purpose
Tchobanoglous et al. (1993) Items which have may no immediate use value, but due to their intrinsic properties are often reusable and may be considered a resource in another setting
UNEP (1989) Wastes  are  substances  or  objects,  which  are  disposed  of  or  are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law