What is the waste hierearchy?

The world generates a staggering amount of waste every year. Thankfully, there's a framework guiding us towards a more sustainable future: the waste hierarchy.

What is the waste hierearchy?

This pyramid prioritises the most environmentally friendly ways to deal with waste, with reduction at the very top. At Severn Trent Green Power, we're not just about recycling – we're firm believers in the entire waste hierarchy.

Sustainable waste management

The waste hierarchy is a simple yet powerful tool. It ranks waste management options according to their environmental impact, guiding us to consider what we define as 'waste' in the first place and what to do with it when it's no longer useful to us. Here's a breakdown:

  1. Reduction: This is the golden rule. By using less in the first place, we minimise the environmental burden throughout the product lifecycle. Think buying only what you need, using reusable shopping bags, and opting for durable products.
  2. Reuse: Give items a second life! Donate clothes, repurpose glass jars, and mend broken tools.
  3. Recycling: Processing waste materials into new products conserves resources and reduces reliance on virgin materials.
  4. Recovery: Extracting energy from waste, like Green Power does through anaerobic digestion (AD), can be a good option when the above aren't feasible.
  5. Disposal: Landfills should be the last resort, as they trap valuable resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Champions of sustainability

Green Power tackles food waste, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Food disposed of in landfills decomposes, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Instead, we recycle food waste at one of our ten food waste AD plants across the Home Counties, Midlands, South West and South Wales. So how does AD work?

  • Food waste is broken down naturally by microorganisms in an oxygen-free environment.
  • This process produces biogas, a renewable energy source, used to generate electricity or heat homes.
  • The leftover digestate is a nutrient-rich chemical-free biofertiliser, a valuable resource for agriculture.

Through AD, Green Power diverts hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste from landfills and incineration each year, transforming it into clean energy and valuable fertiliser. This is a perfect example of highly efficient, closed-loop recycling within the waste hierarchy.

Advocating for reduction and reuse

While Green Power excels at recycling food waste, we understand it's not the ultimate solution. That's why we advocate for reduction and reuse of food at the top of the waste hierarchy. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Plan your meals: Reduce food waste at home by planning meals, making shopping lists, and storing food correctly. Batch cooking is a great way to ensure nothing goes to waste.
  • Don't overcook: It's tempting to serve too much, but most of us overestimate how much food will be eaten at mealtimes. Weigh out portion sizes if necessary.
  • Embrace leftovers: Quite often, uneaten food can be transformed into delicious new meals.
  • Buy loose produce: Avoid excessive packaging by buying loose fruits and vegetables whenever possible. This ties in with the theme of Food Waste Action Week (18-24 March 2024), 'Choose What You'll Use'.

A sustainable future

By prioritising reduction, reuse, and responsible recycling, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future. Green Power is committed to playing its part, not just through innovative food waste recycling solutions, but also by encouraging a cultural shift towards a waste-conscious society.

Together, through a combined effort of reduction, reuse, and responsible recycling, we can make real progress towards a true circular economy.

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