Key-terms used in sustainable waste management

Deposit Refund Scheme / Deposit Return System (DRS) – a scheme where an item is sold at a price which includes a deposit, whose amount gets returned to the customer once it’s taken back to the same shop, or another aligned shop. A typical DRS example covers packaging (e.g. bottles, cans) and helps to achieve very high take-back rates, thus maximising reuse and recycling, and minimising littering the environment.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) – an environmental protection strategy to decrease the total environmental impact from a product, by making the manufacturer responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for funding the take-back, recycling and final disposal. E.g. producer of mobile phones has to fund the system of collecting and recycling of old telephones. 

Hard-to-recycle plastics – usually low-value, mixed plastic materials (crisp packets, sachets), which are usually not worth the cost of separation from the larger plastic mass. Some processes, e.g. extrusion, may help recycle them into new mixed aggregates which can be used for various purposes.

Kerbside (UK)/curbside (US) schemes, door-to-door collection of waste – a waste collection service provided to households, typically in urban and suburban areas where waste is left right outside each property (“at the kerb/curb”) in a container and picked up by a passing vehicle.

Plastic extrusion – a remanufacturing process in which raw plastics, also made of various polymers, are melted and formed into flakes (which can be processed into floorings, pots, benches, etc.) or directly into final objects, like pipes and tubes. 

Recovery – a general term covering all waste management practices included in the waste hierarchy above landfilling – can mean both “material recovery” (recycling, composting, downcycling) and/or energy recovery (incineration1, co-incineration of refuse derived fuels e.g. in cement kilns). Since it is destructive of materials and resources, “energy recovery” is anyway considered as a “leakage” of resources from Circular Economy.

Residuals / residual waste – waste which has not been reused, or separately collected for recycling and composting, thus requires final disposal.

Waste audit – an inventory of the amount and type of solid waste that is produced at a specific location (e.g. home, office, company) or an assessment of the composition of the municipal waste produced by a community. Waste audits provide valuable info to help understand what materials are worth taking action on.