For these Tier 1 cases, Manners says, the priority is to ensure that proper collection and responsible disposal is taking place, to bring an end to environmental leakage and to progressively/collectively move the entire community towards the second Tier.
The second Tier sees a system where waste is collected from households and then processed in an organised and planned manner, preventing environmental leakage from improper disposal. However, this process is still linear.
Linear models, where waste is collected and disposed of in landfills or through incineration with little to no recycling, come at a cost. A study by the World Bank estimates Southeast Asia alone loses an estimated US$6 billion a year when single-use plastics are not recycled. This shows why moving towards a circular economy—a model that focuses on retaining material value via solutions like recycling—not only is better for our environment, but makes good business sense.
These are the benefits Tier 3 countries are able to enjoy. Countries like the UK and Norway have effective collection, transportation and reprocessing, and recycling facilities for household and commercial waste. The high quantities of waste in large-scale systems, with the technology and infrastructure to produce high quality recyclables, allow operators to cover the operating costs of these systems. Even more powerful, circular solutions will in general bring a significant reduction in carbon emissions, helping the world meet its carbon goals.
However, even in countries with the highest recycling rates in the world—Norway recycles 43% of its plastic waste—there is no room for complacency.
Alliance’s Manners again: “We can find ways to achieve higher quality of recycled plastic, and we just have to keep looking at new approaches and better ways of doing things. That's the important thing— to keep investing in finding better ways to deal with the problem,” he concludes.
So, is there a ‘gold standard’ in waste management, something that can be held up as the ideal?