What Happens to Waste We Can’t Recycle?

While the ideal outcome of dealing with waste is to recycle it completely, this is not always possible. Single use plastic water bottles, for example, can be easily recycled and the raw material used to create other plastic products, without the need to create new plastic, however, food packaging which is usually dirty and contaminated, is much more difficult to recycle. So what happens to the waste that cannot be recycled, or at least doesn’t make financial sense to? Below, we will look at a few of the outcomes of waste that cannot be recycled.

Create energy from the waste

This is such a broad outcome that we will break it down into the different ways energy is created from waste. Creating energy from waste is the number one solution to our excessive waste problems. Why search for more fossil fuels, when we can harness the energy from the waste we are already struggling to get rid of? Although this should not mean that we should continue to create waste, as the best case scenario would be zero waste and our energy being derived from renewable sources.

Through the waste recycling to energy process, not only are we harnessing energy from what would otherwise be a burden on the current environment, we could potentially be reducing the need for fossil fuels. Waste that may have otherwise rot in landfill producing greenhouse gases, may have energy capture using biomass facilities, or generated through the combustion process. Waste management companies such as Metso have created machinery to help with this process by shredding down and segregating waste into small enough sizes that they can be used as fuel for this.

It ends up in landfill

The sad result of millions of tonnes generated by households and businesses each year is that they often end up being dumped in a landfill. This is bad for the local environment, especially when the landfill has not been purpose built and specifically designed to stop contamination of the local area. As mentioned in the previous point, much of the waste will end up rotting, and this process alone produces more greenhouse gases, a key contributor to global warming. There is however, a saving grace with this option – the emissions can be harnessed as biogas which can in turn be used as fuel. Unfortunately, this is not as common as it should be, especially in developing countries where landfills can become out of control and take over whole areas. Businesses are starting to see the benefit of this, essentially killing two birds with one stone – take the result of waste that would otherwise just rot and be of no use, and turn it into a useful and profitable resource.

As we can see, broadly speaking, there are not many options that can be taken as an alternative to recycling in terms of waste management. What is clear however, is that there is almost always a use for all waste, and that seeing mountains of rubbish doesn’t have to be the end of its journey.