Why is waste treatment so important? Poor waste treatment can cause huge environmental problems, have a significant impact on society and waste valuable resources. Waste treatment should always follow the principle of waste management hierarchy. The best option is to prevent waste creation but waste treatment becomes relevant if the waste is generated. Efficient reuse and recycling of waste is essential in sustainable waste management. Thinking waste as a valuable resource makes reuse and recycling business economically attractive. Benchmarking and innovations have a big role in creating economically and environmentally profitable reuse and recycling business. Across the globe we can find good examples on well working reuse and recycling business but especially in Finland the culture and knowledge is strong.

Recycling or energy production

Waste to Energy (WtE) solutions allows us to utilize waste as an energy.  WtE solutions should only use waste that is not environmentally or economically reasonable to reuse or recycle. In the past the efficiency of the WtE methods like waste incineration was not admirable and the negative environmental and social impacts were significant. But nowadays new technical innovations have improved the efficiency and negative environmental impact has fallen dramatically. Waste to energy methods are an important part of waste treatment as they allows us to use the energy that the waste contains and it also diminishes the amount of waste landfilled. Final disposal of waste is the last option in waste treatment and it should be avoided. Most often final disposal of waste means landfilling which has a significant environmental and social impact even though the modern landfills are quite well designed. There are also new innovations, different ways to do landfill mining, on how to utilize valuable materials like metals from old landfills.  The ideal situation would be that no final disposal is needed and all the waste generated could be reused, recycled or utilized as an energy.

A growing global problem

Waste is an ever growing problem in the global world. Pressure is posed to waste treatment to be more efficient and sustainable. CEWEP

Differences in waste treatment are huge in different countries even in the European Union and development in waste treatment is needed. In order to treat the waste wisely we need to find the best techniques, share the experiences of different waste management solutions and be innovative. The final disposing of waste is no longer a modern and valid option but reuse, recycling and energy recovery of waste are the things we need to concentrate on.

by Noora Haukijärvi

To learn more about Waste Treatment sign up to the free and open online course Introduction: WastED – Waste Treatment provided by the Turku University of Applied Sciences.

CEWEP. 2013. Municipal Waste Treatment in 2013.
European Commission. 2010. Being wise with waste: the EU’s approach to waste management.
European Commission. 2006a. Reference document on the best available techniques for waste incineration.
European Commission. 2006b. Reference document on best available techniques for the waste treatments Industries.
Guangyu, Y. Disposal of solid waste. http://www.eolss.net/sample-chapters/c09/e4-11-03-03.pdf
Krook, J. ; Svensson, N. & Eklund, M. 2012. Landfill mining: A critical review of two decades of research.
Gorgos, D. Social impact and input in waste management.
World Bank. What a waste: a global review of solid waste management.