Reducing amount of consumer waste

Recycling consumer wastes
Manufacturers must reduce the environmental impacts of the consumer goods they produce. Government and business can work together to help consumers choose, use and dispose of products sustainably. An integrated approach to products and the environment is required, targeted towards the most significant products and issues, and drawing on a range of measures to push forward the market for environmentally friendly products.
Sustainable development is one of the most difficult challenges facing society today. People want the prosperity and comfort that comes with economic development but those benefits are compromised if there are other costs to our quality of life. All levels of society are required to promote and help accelerate the changes needed to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption. Changes of this kind can take time to work through, but the process has to be started now, and it needs to be kept moving. A long-term view is required for how policy-makers and business leaders can start transforming markets in the fundamental way that is needed.
A 1998 UK Government consultation paper outlines a number of key proposals, including: (1) challenges to industry sectors to come forward with initiatives for reducing the impact of the goods they produce; (2) options for new environmental labels and awards for the UK domestic market; (3) suggestions for industry standards to set minimum levels for products' environmental performance; (4) methods to encourage the takeup of the "green claims code" and international standards on product information; and, (5) aims for working with European partners on improving the effectiveness of the European energy labelling and eco-labelling schemes.

Waste is growing in the USA, but declining in other countries.

A number of carpet makers in the USA are in talks to develop their own national takeback scheme.

In Japan refuse is compressed under high pressure in specially designed hydraulic presses and then enmeshed in chicken-wire net. The blocks that resulted were then coated with cement or asphalt. All air was forced out; therefore, all micro-organisms were destroyed. Cement-coated blocks are suitable for building purposes; asphalt-coated blocks are used for land reclamation and the construction of breakers to prevent erosion by sea water. This method of disposal is claimed to be one fifth as costly as constructing incinerators. Attempts have also been made to use town and municipal wastes as fuel in the manufacture of cement.

1. Consumer wastes could be used as building materials. However, in most developing countries, these wastes are not retrieved or reused. The amount of such wastes, which are concentrated in large population centres, is related to the industrial development of the country. In terms of end-products the retrieval of such waste materials is potentially sound, but it would be useful if the units were designed from the start to be converted into load-bearing or stressable building components. Difficulties arise in launching a process of this kind when manufacturers and commercial interests are involved.

2. Very little is known about the equipment needed for utilizing consumer wastes, since only limited work has been done on the subject.

Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies